May 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.

May, 2019

5/29/2019 — Mueller issues his resignation statement today

  • ECB Says Mispricing Climate Change May Hurt Financial Stability: Climate change could hit bank balance sheets with a knock-on effect on financial stability, the European Central Bank warned on Wednesday.
    • In a special feature for its semi-annual Financial Stability Review on Wednesday, the ECB said problems will materialize if markets aren’t correctly pricing the risks stemming from extreme weather events and the transition to a low-carbon emission economy.
    • Global warming is getting increased attention from the world’s central banks. Bank of England Governor Mark Carney and his French counterpart Francois Villeroy de Galhau warned in a joint article last month that policy makers cannot ignore the “obvious risks” related to climate change, urging financial industry and central bank to do more. The U.S. Federal Reserve is also reportedly looking into the issue.
  • Trump Thwarts GOP Plot to Pretend His Climate Agenda Isn’t Idiotic: Donald Trump refuses to transition to cleaner, more sustainable talking points. Rather, on climate, the president insists on putting his party’s dumbest face forward.
    • Not content to merely accelerate warming through its policies, the Trump administration is adding insult to ecological injury. At a meeting of the Arctic Council this month, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo refused to sign on to a joint statement affirming the necessity of protecting the Arctic region from the threat of rapidly melting ice — unless all mentions of climate change were stripped from the document. Pompeo further horrified his fellow diplomats by suggesting that climate change is actually good for the Arctic, since melting ice caps are “opening up new shipping routes” and thus making it more economically viable to expand oil drilling in the region.
    • Pompeo’s “climate change isn’t a big deal, but if it was, that would be awesome” position is shared by William Happer, the 79-year-old physicist who serves on Trump’s National Security Council. Happer has said repeatedly, in public, that “the demonization of carbon dioxide is just like the demonization of the poor Jews under Hitler.” He further argues that humanity has actually been suffering through a “CO2 famine,” which the fossil-fuel industry has been heroically combating.
    • Meanwhile, his appointed director of the United States Geological Survey recently prohibited that office from estimating climate change’s impacts beyond the year 2040. This amounts to a prohibition on acknowledging that any deregulatory policy could significantly impact the climate, since there is a decades-long lag between the time when emissions are produced and the moment when their biggest impact on warming is felt. What’s more, the White House also reportedly plans to prevent the government’s next National Climate Assessment report from including any discussion of worst-case scenarios.
    • But Trump is just as allergic to subtlety when he’s abetting climate catastrophe as he is when interior decorating. And that’s probably for the best. Elected Republicans are nigh-unanimous in their opposition to climate policies that would hurt the oil industry’s bottom line. And as long as that’s the case, it’s probably more dangerous for the GOP to do Harold Hamm’s bidding while crying crocodile tears for the climate than to do so while raving about how carbon-dioxide molecules are the Holocaust victims of 2019.
  • Putting a Price on the Risk of Climate Change: Efforts to slow global warming threaten to turn energy investments into “stranded assets.”
    • The top 10 energy companies are planning investments approaching $1 trillion by 2030, in everything from finding and tapping new fields to equipment ranging from drones to drilling rigs. If the oil and gas business rolls along as it has for the past century, those projects will likely pay off in fat profits for shareholders. But some analysts and investors warn that the value of much of that infrastructure risks falling to zero.

5/28/2019

  • Eisenhower recalls sacrifices of D-Day, 20 years after: From the archives: Former President Dwight D. Eisenhower speaks with CBS News’ Walter Cronkite on the 20th Anniversary of D-Day on June 6, 1964.
  • 4 Reasons People Fear Science
  • Report: Louisiana coastal residents agree they face ‘existential’ crisis:
    • As Gov. John Bel Edwards explained (admitted?) in a statement accompanying the report’s release, “This is not a mandate for anyone, but it is based on the feedback given by those who will be most directly impacted. We have to be realistic about the current and future effects of coastal land loss and plan today to develop Louisiana’s next generation of communities.”
    • (OK, at this point you may be wondering why readers of national news services such as Bloomberg, Scientific American, Digital Journal and others got the full report last week while you never heard a thing. You can contact your local newsrooms for an explanation.)
  • ‘Borderline criminal’: Many public schools teeter on the edge of decrepitude
  • Murray Gell-Mann, Who Peered at Particles and Saw the Universe, Dies at 89: Murray Gell-Mann, who transformed physics with his preternatural ability to find hidden patterns among the tiny particles that make up the universe, earning a Nobel Prize, died on Friday at his home in Santa Fe. He was 89.
    • [ael: what I remember of Gell-Mann is this story, from https://www.edge.org/conversation/the-making-of-a-physicist]:
    • In June, 1948, I graduated from Yale and prepared to enter graduate school in physics in the fall. The results of my applications were very disappointing. Harvard admitted me but offered no financial aid. Princeton turned me down flat. At Yale, I was admitted to graduate school in mathematics, but not in physics. The one encouraging reply from a physics department came from MIT. I was admitted and offered the job of assistant to a theoretical physics professor named Victor Weisskopf, of whom I had never heard. When I inquired about him, I was told he was a wonderful man and an excellent physicist and that everyone called him by his nickname, Viki. He wrote me a very nice letter saying he hoped I would come to MIT and work with him.
    • I was still discouraged, though, about having to go to MIT, which seemed so grubby compared with the Ivy League. I thought of killing myself (at the age of 18) but soon decided that I could always try MIT and then kill myself later if it was that bad but that I couldn't commit suicide and then try MIT afterwards. The two operations, suicide and going to MIT, didn't commute, as we say in math and physics jargon.
  • 'Startling' inaction on climate change must end, pope says: If the world is to win the fight against climate change, its leaders must stop profiting from fossil fuels that threaten the survival and well-being of the planet and its inhabitants, Pope Francis said.
    • "We live at a time when profits and losses seem to be more highly valued than lives and deaths, and when a company's net worth is given precedence over the infinite worth of our human family," he said. The conference, "Climate Change and New Evidence from Science, Engineering and Policy," was sponsored by the Pontifical Academy of Sciences. Among the issues discussed during the event was the fulfillment of the U.N. Sustainable Development Goals, a list of 17 major commitments that the world's nations and U.N. agencies will be asked to pursue until 2030.
    • "We continue along old paths because we are trapped by our faulty accounting and by the corruption of vested interests," he said. "We still reckon as profit that which threatens our very survival." Pope Francis said the "effects of global inaction are startling" and cited recent extreme global meteorological events, such as heat waves, droughts, fires and floods, as "a dire premonition of much worse things to come, unless we act and act urgently."
    • Days earlier in a message to the scientific community, Cardinal Peter Turkson said it may be time for an intervention "regarding the current climate crisis, caused by man's interference in nature," and called on others to join with scientists and young people in demanding political and economic leaders "to undertake drastic measures to change course." "It is time to organize an intervention. As stated in Laudato si', 'the effects of the present imbalance can only be reduced by our decisive action, here and now' (LS 161)," he wrote. "We will all have to make a radical change in our lifestyle: the use of energy, consumption, transport, industrial production, construction, agriculture, etc. Each of us is called to act. But we must also take action together, starting with governments and institutions, families and people: we need all hands on deck."
    • Turkson said hope remains to avoid the worst impacts of effects of climate change, and urged leaders at COP 25, in Santiago, Chile, to produce bold plans for implementing the Paris Agreement. He compared the level of mobilization and quick action needed to address climate change to the steps taken to save banks during the Great Recession of the late 2000s. "Is it not possible to do it again now to save our common home, the future of our children and future generations?" he asked.
  • The Bank of Canada declared climate change a financial risk. Now what?: This month, the Bank of Canada released its 2019 Financial System Review. For the first time, it listed climate change as one of six major vulnerabilities facing Canada’s economy.
    • It’s significant given that for years, the bank has been virtually silent on the issue. In fact, until March of this year, not a single member of the bank’s leadership team had publicly mentioned the words climate change for two years. Now, the Bank has identified the physical and transition risks of climate change as vulnerabilities facing Canada’s financial system, mentioned in the same breath as household debt and housing market imbalances.
    • It is easy for Bay Street or Alberta Premier Jason Kenney to dismiss warnings about climate risk when they come from think tanks or environmental NGOs. It is a lot harder to ignore those warnings when they are coming from the Bank of Canada, known for its data-driven reports and inherently cautious nature – an institution acutely aware that its words move markets.
    • The Bank of Canada’s statements bring it in line with other central banks such as the Bank of England and the European Central Bank, which have been increasingly sounding the alarm about the need for the global financial system to properly account for, and disclose, climate risk.

5/26/2019

  • The Smithsonian’s renewed fossil hall sends a forceful message about climate change: The “David H. Koch Hall of Fossils — Deep Time,” which opens to the public on June 8, is a radically new kind of natural history exhibition. It features all the classic beasts of a traditional paleontology hall: a colossal mammoth skeleton, a long-necked diplodocus, a ferocious new T-rex. But every fossil is presented in the context of Earth’s past climates and its present crisis.
  • EPA wants to triple level of rocket fuel chemical allowed in drinking water: Another "gift to polluters."
    • “This is enough to make you sick—literally,” Erik Olson, senior director for health and food at NRDC, said in a statement on the new proposed limits. “As a result, millions of Americans will be at risk of exposure to dangerous levels of this toxic chemical in their drinking water.”
    • According to NRDC, scientists recommend a limit that is “10 to more than 50 times lower” than what the EPA is currently proposing. Two states currently have much stricter, enforceable standards than required by the EPA: California (at 6 micrograms per liter) and Massachusetts (at 2 micrograms per liter).
  • Carbon dioxide soars to record-breaking levels not seen in 800,000 years: There is more carbon dioxide in the atmosphere than there has been for 800,000 years — since before our species evolved.
    • [ael: this is Fox News! What the hell?]
    • But every story has its villains: Humans are burning fossil fuels, causing the release of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases, which are adding an extra blanket on an already feverish planet. So far, global temperatures have risen by about 1.8 degrees Fahrenheit (1 degree Celsius) since the 19th century or pre-industrial times, according to a special report released last year by the United Nation's Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.
    • The subsequent warming is already causing changes to the planet — shrinking glaciers, bleaching coral reefs and intensifying heat waves and storms, among other impacts. And carbon dioxide levels higher than 450 ppm "are likely to lock in dangerous and irreversible changes in our climate," Mann told Live Science.
    • "We keep breaking records, but what makes the current levels of CO2 in the atmosphere most troubling is that we are now well into the 'danger zone' where large tipping points in the Earth’s climate could be crossed," said Jonathan Overpeck, the dean of the School for Environment and Sustainability at the University of Michigan. "This is particularly true when you factor in the additional warming potential of the other greenhouse gases, including methane, that are now in the atmosphere."
    • "Thus, we could soon be at the point where comparable reductions in ice sheet size, and corresponding increases in sea level, are both inevitable and irreversible over the next few centuries," he said. Smaller ice sheets, in turn, might reduce the reflectivity of the planet and potentially accelerate the warming even more, he added. "It's like we're playing with a loaded gun and don't know how it works."
  • Humans held responsible for twists and turns of climate change since 1900: While industry and agriculture belched greenhouse gases at an increasing pace through the 20th century, global temperature followed a jagged course, surging for 3 decades starting in 1915, leveling off from the 1950s to the late 1970s, and then resuming its climb. For decades, scientists have chalked up these early swings to the planet’s internal variability—in particular, a climatic pacemaker called the Atlantic Multidecadal Oscillation (AMO), which is characterized by long-term shifts in ocean temperatures. But researchers are increasingly questioning whether the AMO played the dominant role once thought. The oceanic pacemaker seems to be fluttering.
    • It is now possible to explain the record’s twists and turns almost entirely without the AMO, says Karsten Haustein, a climate scientist at the University of Oxford in the United Kingdom and lead author of a new study published this month in the Journal of Climate. After correcting for the distinct effects of pollution hazes over land and ocean and for flaws in the temperature record, Haustein and his colleagues calculated that the interplay of greenhouse gases and atmospheric pollution almost singlehandedly shaped 20th century climate. “It’s very unlikely there’s this ocean leprechaun that produces cyclicity that we don’t know about,” Haustein says—which means it is also unlikely that a future cool swing in the AMO will blunt the ongoing human-driven warming.
    • The AMO arose from observations that sea surface temperatures in the North Atlantic seem to swing from unusually warm to cold and back over some 20 to 60 years; the ancient climate appears to have had similar swings. Researchers theorized that periodic shifts in the conveyor belt of Atlantic Ocean currents drive this variability. But why the conveyor would regularly speed and slow on its own was a mystery, and the evidence for grand regular oscillations has slowly been eroding, says Gabriele Hegerl, a statistical climatologist at the University of Edinburgh. “Those are harder to defend.”
    • The new skepticism kicked off with work led by Ben Booth, a climate scientist at the Met Office Hadley Centre in Exeter, U.K.. In 2012, he reported in Nature that pollution hazes, or aerosols, began thickening the clouds over the Atlantic in the 1950s, which could have cooled the ocean with little help from an internal oscillation. In the past year, several independent models have yielded similar results. Meanwhile, most global climate models have been unable to reproduce AMO-like oscillations unless researchers include the influence of pollutants, such as soot and sulfates produced by burning fossil fuels, says Amy Clement, a climate scientist at the University of Miami in Florida.
    • Now, it seems plausible that such human influences, with help from aerosols spewed by volcanic eruptions, drove virtually all 20th century climate change. Haustein and his co-authors tweaked a relatively simple climate model to account for the fact that most pollution originates over land, which heats and cools faster than the ocean—and there’s much more land in the Northern Hemisphere. And they dialed back the cooling effect of volcanic eruptions—a reasonable move, says Booth, who is not affiliated with the study. “We’ve known models respond too strongly to volcanoes.”

5/24/2019

  • Opinion: Fix trade secret law to protect precious water from fracking: If the public is going to have a robust debate about the merits of fracking, both sides need to know what's being pumped into the ground.
    • The following statistic from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's 2016 report on fracking sums up the situation: out of 1,606 chemicals discovered in the millions of gallons of wastewater that fracking produces, the EPA could only identify 193 of them.
  • 15-minute approvals: Alberta plans to automate licences for new oil and gas drilling: Lobbying records obtained by The Narwhal show that as Alberta’s new government has pledged a ‘rapid acceleration of approvals,’ the province’s energy regulator has been moving ahead with plans that mean the vast majority of new wells will be approved by a computer in a matter of minutes
    • The Narwhal was charged $643.95 by the Alberta Energy Regulator — an industry-funded corporation in charge of overseeing Alberta’s energy industry — to access the documents. The fee was paid by readers who donated specifically to cover these costs. When asked for details, CAPP told The Narwhal by email that these approvals refer to applications that are “anticipated to be low-risk and, as such, the approval of each of those applications would be expedited.”
  • The Energy 202: Republicans vote against bill containing their key climate priority: researching energy innovation: The measure, approved in a 31-21 vote in the Democratic-led House Appropriations Committee almost entirely along party lines, illustrates how Republicans are still prioritizing getting funding for other Energy Department initiatives over bipartisan provisions on climate change. So much so that they are willing to vote against a bill that would go toward showing they are serious about their calls for innovation as House Democrats raise climate change to the forefront this Congress.
    • “I was pleased we were able to reverse the administration’s wholly inadequate budget request and provide robust funding for the clean energy technology programs that will spur innovation as we work to mitigate climate change,” said Rep. Marcy Kaptur (D-Ohio), chairwoman of the House Appropriations subcommittee on energy and water. “A vote for this bill was a vote to support those critical programs.”
  • ‘We need everyone’: Greta Thunberg calls on adults to join climate strikes: Global general strike on 20 September could be historic turning point, say activists
  • These 15 urban design projects are reinventing cities for a zero-carbon future: The Reinventing Cities competition asked architects to find new uses for vacant and abandoned spaces in cities around the world. The results are an extraordinary example of what future cities could look like.
  • A Truly Remarkable Spider: The spider Hyptiotes reinvented the concept of the web, building an extraordinary, spring-loaded trap.
    • Wilder had many talents: He was a Civil War surgeon, a pioneering neuroscientist famous for his vast collection of preserved brains that included, eventually, his own, and a zoologist whose fondness for spiders led him to create a device that milked them for silk. Upon encountering a bizarre triangular web, such a person was almost guaranteed to prod it.
    • When he did, he was amazed that the structure “loosened with a snap,” and the triangle shot forward as if whatever was holding it taut had let go. A moment later, as Wilder watched, it started slowly stretching back to its original state. It was being pulled by a single strand extending from its tip, and by following that line, Wilder found the web’s creator—a tiny spider, no bigger than a grape seed, and camouflaged to resemble a tree bud. Hyptiotes cavatus. The triangle weaver.
    • When the spider releases the anchor line, its body accelerates at 770 meters per second squared (more than 2,500 feet per second squared)—almost 80 times greater than a free-falling object, and 60 times greater than a sprinting cheetah. That’s only possible because the spider stores energy in its stretched web. If it tried to accelerate that hard on its own power, it would need 20 times its body weight in muscle.
    • Mantis shrimps—a group of aggressive crustaceans—use a similar structure in their arms to deliver the world’s fastest punches.

5/23/2019

  • 75+ Business Leaders Lobby Congress for Carbon Pricing. Did Republicans Listen?: Microsoft, Pepsi, Levi's and others are calling for carbon taxes or fees that could scale up innovation fast enough to combat climate change.
    • The answer appeared to be: "Not yet."
    • Officials from Microsoft, Nike, Pepsi, eBay, Exelon, Gap, Levi's, Mars and Tesla were among more than 75 business leaders making the case for a national price on carbon. They scheduled 80 meetings with lawmakers and staff, half of them with Republicans. Lawmakers and their aides ducked behind closed doors to confer with members of the delegation throughout the day.
    • The companies lobbying for carbon pricing together represented combined annual revenues of more than $2.5 trillion, according to the sustainability nonprofit group Ceres, which helped organizing the lobbying effort. Boston-based Ceres works with investors and companies to build networks of leaders on climate issues.
  • An (Even More) Inconvenient Truth: Why Carbon Credits For Forest Preservation May Be Worse Than Nothing
    • If the world were graded on the historic reliability of carbon offsets, the result would be a solid F.
    • I found a few that came close. In 2015, a French research center examined 120 projects and found that 37% overlapped with existing protected lands like national parks. Though offsets require an added benefit, the authors concluded REDD was simply layered onto existing conservation plans, reducing it to a “logo to attract financing.”
    • Then, there are the findings out of Norway, a major exporter of oil and natural gas and the world’s largest supporter of REDD, representing about half of all funding. Tucked into a little-noticed report published last year by Norway’s Office of the Auditor General was the revelation that the country’s efforts had failed virtually every test: Despite a decade’s work and $3 billion, results were “delayed and uncertain,” the science of measuring carbon was only “partially in place” and there was “considerable” risk of what’s called “leakage” — when protecting one patch of land leads to deforestation somewhere else. That problem alone creates “considerable uncertainty over the climatic impact,” the report concluded.
  • Top GOP pollster finds overwhelming support for carbon tax by millennial Republicans: “This is the first time we’ve polled a climate plan that has real positive appeal across Republicans and Democrats.”
    • Significantly, Luntz’s firm, which has been polling this issue for decades, reported this week that a Carbon Dividend Plan — which charges fossil fuel companies for their carbon emissions and rebates the money directly back to the public — is uniquely popular.
  • Psalm 46: ael: seems appropriate right about now….

5/22/2019

  • Investigators Urge E.P.A. to Pursue Scott Pruitt for $124,000 in ‘Excessive’ Travel Costs: Federal investigators concluded in a report Thursday that Scott Pruitt had spent nearly $124,000 on “excessive” travel arrangements as head of the Environmental Protection Agency and recommended that the agency try to recover the money.
  • Meating In The Middle: The Challenge of Lowering Greenhouse Gas Emissions On Farms: Agriculture is the leading producer of methane emissions in the U.S., with animal digestion producing almost as much as oil and gas operations. So, one way to reduce that is to just stop eating beef, right? That’s what researchers near and far believe, including Paul West at the University of Minnesota.
    • He’s turned to regenerative agriculture, which means creating a sustainable farming operation that isn’t too hard on the landscape and involves everything from cover crops to diverse crop rotations to drainage water management.
  • Researchers Say Even In Kentucky, There’s A Path To A Carbon-Free Future: At least two coal-fired power plants are expected to close in Kentucky this year and another two are expected to close in 2020. With each retirement, residents will have to decide how they want to power the future. But in Kentucky, the battle over the future of electricity is a fight over the state’s identity.
    • In May, Druffel received a $1 million grant from the U.S. Department of Energy to research and develop a new method of printing solar panels. Conn Center researchers have already developed a new technique to rapidly process solar cells. Now, Druffel wants to adapt roll-to-roll printing presses used in the newspaper industry to print the next generation of solar panels.
    • Now Druffel is working on scaling his technology. He calculated that if one modern printing press ran 24 hours a day for a year, it would produce enough solar panels to power 10 percent of the world’s energy needs.
    • Kentucky still receives about 92 percent of its energy from fossil fuels, said Mahendra Sunkara, the Conn Center’s director. Most of that energy is still coming from coal, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration.
    • Soon enough, technologies like hydrogen fuel cells will store that energy, not only to power homes, but also to power vehicles, he said. In the interim, the state could rely on some power generated through natural gas and biomass — which releases significantly less greenhouses gases than burning coal — matched with carbon capture technology.
  • As southern Spain dries up, its farmers get inventive: Fending off the ravages of climate change in Spain’s farmland may turn on how well its farmers can adopt new techniques that help restore their environment’s life-giving capacities.
    • Climate change experts estimate that two-thirds of Spain is vulnerable to encroaching desertification and accelerated soil erosion. Due to a mix of natural and socioeconomic factors, the Mediterranean nation is considered the worst afflicted when it comes to land degradation in arid, semiarid, and dry areas of the European Union. So farmers like Mr. Chacon are turning to regenerative agriculture in a bid to revitalize local landscapes, economies, and communities.
  • How some Ohio farmers are trying to cut their carbon footprint: Solar power, conservation-till practices and cover crops are steps farmers can take now to help reduce greenhouse emissions.

5/21/2019: Dean Shupe, social justice crusader, died on this day….

  • Coasts Should Plan for 6.5 Feet Sea Level Rise by 2100 as Precaution, Experts Say: "Coastal decisions by and large require long lead times, and it would be nice if we could wait for the science to clear up, but we can’t," one scientist said.
    • "If you knew there was a one-third or even 10 percent chance a plane would crash, you wouldn't get on it. It's the same with sea level rise," he said.
    • The authors write that, for planning purposes, it would be prudent to use scenarios that anticipate 6.5 feet of sea level rise by the end of the 21st Century—more than double the likely upper limit put forward by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. That projection of 6.5 feet of sea level rise is based on a worst-case emissions scenario in which little is done to rein in greenhouse gases and the planet warms as much as 5 degrees Celsius (9°F) above pre-industrial times.
    • That amount of sea level rise could inundate nearly 700,000 square miles—almost equal to the entire land mass of Indonesia—"including critical regions of food production and displacement of up to 187 million people," the authors write. "A [sea level rise] of this magnitude would clearly have profound consequences for humanity."
    • The authors behind Monday's report took a different approach to understanding the risks of sea level rise by conducting what's called a structured expert judgement study. This approach allowed the authors to look at a range of possible outcomes based on the knowledge of those who know the topic best, Bamber said. Here's how it worked: Groups of experts gathered at meetings in the United States and in the United Kingdom where they were tested on their ability to make estimates pertaining to sea level rise. "We calibrated our experts on their ability to assess their own certainty or uncertainty in processes and behaviors that they know something about but not everything," said Bamber. Then they were presented with questions around sea level rise from ice loss in Antarctica and Greenland, resulting in the findings about potential sea level rise.
  • ‘Earthworm Dilemma’ Has Climate Scientists Racing to Keep Up: Worms are wriggling into Earth’s northernmost forests, creating major unknowns for climate-change models.
    • The boreal is special. In warmer climates, the floor of a typical forest is a mix of mineral soil and organic soil. In a boreal forest, those components are distinct, with a thick layer of rotting leaves, mosses and fallen wood on top of the mineral soil. Soil scientists once thought that cooler temperatures reduced mixing; now, they wonder if the absence of earthworms is what made the difference. This spongy layer of leaf litter contains most of the carbon stored in the boreal soil. As it turns out, most of the invading earthworms in the North American boreal appear to be the type that love to devour leaf litter and stay above ground, releasing carbon.
    • In 2015, Dr. Cameron published the results of a computer model aimed at figuring out the effect on leaf-litter over time. “What we see with our model is that forest-floor carbon is reduced by between 50 percent and 94 percent, mostly in the first 40 years,” she said. That carbon, no longer sequestered, goes into the atmosphere. Not only that, in a 2009 study she calculated that earthworms had already wriggled their way into 9 percent of the forest of northeastern Alberta, and would occupy half of it by 2049.
  • Is ‘Digital Addiction’ a Real Threat to Kids?: Think of screens as something to handle in moderation, like food, rather than something without any healthy place in our lives, like heroin, experts say.
    • [ael: imagine someone eating constantly — with a bag of food always at the ready, and hands dipping constantly into the feed bag. Maybe we should think of it as something like breathing….]

5/19/2019

  • How to talk to kids about climate change without scaring them: Stacie Paxton Cobos, senior vice president for communications and marketing at The Climate Reality Project, a nonprofit organization founded by Al Gore, says parents should first help their children develop an appreciation of the natural world before trying to explain climate change.

5/17/2019

  • Midwest Flooding Exposes Another Oil Pipeline Risk — on Keystone XL’s Route: Rushing rivers have exposed once-buried pipelines before, leading to oil spills. With climate change exacerbating flood risks, Keystone XL critics see dangers ahead.
    • NAPER, Nebraska — Standing on the banks of the Keya Paha River where it cuts through his farm, Bob Allpress points across a flat expanse of sand to where a critical shut-off valve is supposed to rise from the Keystone XL pipeline once it's buried in his land. The Keya Paha flooded several weeks ago, and when it did, the rush of newly melted water drove debris, sand and huge chunks of ice deep inland, mowing down trees and depositing a long wall of ice 6 feet high and 30 feet wide across Allpress's property. "It would've taken out their shut-off valve," Allpress said of the river flooding. "Right where they propose to put it at. And it wouldn't have been a good thing."
  • Louisiana's New Climate Plan Prepares for Migration, Resilience and Retreat as Sea Level Rises: People are already relocating inland as the ocean rises with global warming and the delta sinks. The state's new plan looks at ways to ease the transition.
    • Since Hurricane Katrina battered Louisiana in 2005, followed by a series of disasters linked to climate change and the Deepwater Horizon oil spill, these questions have plagued coastal parts of the state. In a sweeping plan released Wednesday, the state issued a blueprint for coping with the impacts of a warming planet, including a human migration that has already begun. "Louisiana is in the midst of an existential crisis," the report says. "Its response to this crisis can either lead to a prosperous renaissance or to a continued and sustained cycle of disaster and recovery."

5/16/2019

  • BP's Investors Unite Over Fears It's ‘Falling Behind’ on Climate: A resolution at the company’s annual general meeting on May 21 will ask BP to prove in a series of reports how individual capital investments, and its overall business strategy, are aligned with the goals of the Paris climate accord. The proposal already has the backing of almost a tenth of the company’s shareholders, including seven of the oil major’s 20 largest stockholders, such as Legal & General Investment Management Ltd., and UBS Asset Management.
    • BP said earlier this year it supports the resolution and asked all shareholders to vote for it at the meeting. If a majority do, it will be legally binding.
    • The engagement with BP was also aided by an 18-month old coalition of investors called Climate Action 100+. The group, which oversees about $33 trillion in assets, is asking more than 150 of the largest corporate greenhouse gas emitters to align their business strategy with the Paris accord. Climate Action 100+ has already persuaded Shell to adapt short-term climate targets and convinced Glencore Plc to cut coal production.
    • “There’s 161 companies on the focus list, so around the world we’ve got groups of investors engaging with each one of those,” said Stephanie Pfeifer, head of the Climate Action 100+ group’s European arm. “There’s plenty of time to have more dialogue, and sort of ratchet up the asks, as well.”
  • Scientists tell Tampa Bay leaders to prepare for up to 8.5 feet of sea-level rise: Seas are rising all over the world and the rate of sea-level rise keeps increasing as well; a new report says the low-lying coastal Tampa Bay area should expect at least two feet, but as much as eight-and-a-half feet of sea-level rise by the end of the century.
    • “It’s important to note that the regional projections that we shared – they assign a probability to each of those curves. That high curve of eight-and-a-half feet is only considered likely if we continue to emit greenhouse gasses at the rates we do now and we account for maximum plausible ice melt. There’s really only a less than one percent chance that we will see sea-level rise greater than that eight-and-a-half feet.”
  • ‘Extraordinary thinning’ of ice sheets revealed deep inside Antarctica: New research shows affected areas are losing ice five times faster than in the 1990s, with more than 100m of thickness gone in some places
    • Ice losses are rapidly spreading deep into the interior of the Antarctic, new analysis of satellite data shows. The warming of the Southern Ocean is resulting in glaciers sliding into the sea increasingly rapidly, with ice now being lost five times faster than in the 1990s. The West Antarctic ice sheet was stable in 1992 but up to a quarter of its expanse is now thinning. More than 100 metres of ice thickness has been lost in the worst-hit places.
    • A complete loss of the West Antarctic ice sheet would drive global sea levels up by about five metres, drowning coastal cities around the world. The current losses are doubling every decade, the scientists said, and sea level rise are now running at the extreme end of projections made just a few years ago.
  • Climate Change and the New Age of Extinction: People easily forget “last of” stories about individual species, but the loss of nature also threatens our existence.
    • The authors trace two diverging trend lines: one upward-sloping, for people, and one sloping downward, for everything else. During the past fifty years, the planet’s human population has doubled. In that same period, the size of the global economy has quadrupled, and global trade has grown tenfold. If hundreds of millions of people around the world are still mired in poverty, there are many more people living in prosperity today than ever before.
    • To keep nearly eight billion people fed, not to mention housed, clothed, and hooked on YouTube, humans have transformed most of the earth’s surface. Seventy-five per cent of the land is “significantly altered,” the I.P.B.E.S. noted in a summary of its report, which was released last week in Paris. In addition, “66 per cent of the ocean area is experiencing increasing cumulative impacts, and over 85 per cent of wetlands (area) has been lost.” Approximately half the world’s coral cover is gone. In the past ten years alone, at least seventy-five million acres of “primary or recovering forest” have been destroyed.
    • Habitat destruction and overfishing are, for now, the main causes of biodiversity declines, according to the I.P.B.E.S., but climate change is emerging as a “direct driver” and is “increasingly exacerbating the impact of other drivers.” Its effects, the report notes, “are accelerating.” Watson wrote last week, in the Guardian, that “we cannot solve the threats of human-induced climate change and loss of biodiversity in isolation. We either solve both or we solve neither.”
  • Attention Louisiana climate deniers: Insurers say climate change now biggest risk: History is full of moments when communities facing an existential challenge have two fates. They are saved by courageous leaders who ignore personal risks to show the way. Or they become examples of disastrous, life-ending choices.
    • Climate change has clearly placed Louisiana at one of those crisis points. But, so far, we have chosen that second course and are barreling toward disaster just a few decades away.
    • The evidence of this failure was captured in two headlines from last week’s news: "Louisiana’s GOP congressmen approve pulling U.S. out of Paris Climate Accords." and "Climate change jumps to biggest risk for insurers."
    • Climate change took the biggest jump this year of I believe any risk that I can remember, seeing it jump from 7 percent up to 22 percent," said, Max Rudolph, fellow of the Society of Actuaries and author of the report. Rudolph added that it's becoming harder for risk managers to avoid thinking about climate change. He pointed to major hurricanes in 2017 and the longer, more intense wildfire seasons we're seeing in the west.

5/14/2019

  • 'The planet is on fire': Bill Nye driven to F-bomb rant by climate change: The beloved science educator and children’s show host appeared on Last Week Tonight to help explain carbon-pricing
    • “When something costs more, people buy less of it,” Nye says in a makeshift science lab, cutting to the chase. He goes on to explain why burning less fuel in our cars or burning less coal might help prevent fires, floods, and crop failures. And then he says, because Oliver is a “42-year-old man who needs his attention sustained with tricks, here’s some fucking Mentos in a bottle of Diet Coke”, an experiment with mints and soda that appears to delight the host.
    • After explaining the idea being carbon taxes, and the difficulty politicians have getting people to accept the idea of a new tax, Nye returns for another experiment to cut through all the talk. “By the end of this century, if emissions keep rising, the average temperature on Earth could go up another four to eight degrees,” Nye says, losing his patience. “What I’m saying is the planet is on fucking fire,” he says while taking a torch to a globe.
    • “There are a lot of things we could do to put it out. Are any of them free? No, of course not. Nothing’s free, you idiots. Grow the fuck up. You’re not children any more. I didn’t mind explaining photosynthesis to you when you were 12. But you’re adults now, and this is an actual crisis, got it? Safety glasses off, motherfuckers.”
  • Carbon dioxide hits a level not seen for 3 million years. Here's what that means for climate change — and humanity: Scientists are sounding the alarm over the potential for catastrophic changes to our environment.
    • As the planet inches toward 500 ppm, scientists are sounding the alarm over the potential for catastrophic changes to our environment. “None of these specific numbers are really thresholds in the sense that anything particular happens when we cross them,” Gavin Schmidt, a climatologist who directs NASA’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies in New York City, told NBC News MACH in an email. “But as we go through them, we are putting our foot on the accelerator of climate change, and impacts and damage will continue to rise.”
    • “We’re not going to see the full consequences of 415 parts per million of carbon dioxide today,” Jackson said. “It’ll take a thousand years of people — 30 generations of people — to pay the price of what we’re doing today.”
  • Lenders Scolded for Climate Ignorance in ‘Insane’ Florida Real Estate Deals: Hurricane Michael killed seven people and caused more than $6 billion in damage in Florida in October, a toll compounded by warmer, higher seas and wetter air, the signs of climate change scientists have long warned about. But investors have yet to pay any kind of meaningful attention….
    • buying up long-dated debt and financing real estate decades into the future. That kind of market neglect means the Florida economy can be expected to “go to hell,” warned Spencer Glendon, a senior fellow at the Woods Hole Research Center and a former partner and director of investment research at Wellington Management. “No one should be lending for 30 years in most of Florida,” he said at an investment conference in New York last week. “During that time frame, insurance will disappear and terminal values” — future resale income — “will shrink. I tell my parents that it’s fine to rent in Florida, but it’s insane to own or to lend.”
    • Similar warnings are starting to reverberate among other financial institutions. BlackRock Inc. last month published a 20-page explanation of how climate-risk has become a necessary assessment in understanding shifting levels of risk and value.
  • Waste Not — if You Want to Help Secure the Future of the Planet: If there’s one vital, but underappreciated, subject in the conversation about climate change, it’s waste: how to define it, how to create less of it, how to deal with it without adding more pollution to the planet or the atmosphere.
  • A New Generation of Activists Confronts the Extinction Crisis:

5/12/2019 — Mother's Day

  • Bill McKibben and Elizabeth Kolbert on the U.N. Extinction Report: While the political tide could be turning on climate change, both writers worry that it is too late.
    • After years of languishing far down the list of voters’ priorities—for Democrats and even more so for Republicans—the desire for action on climate change has brought this issue to the top of many voters’ concerns, according to a CNN poll. Now Presidential candidates are competing to establish themselves as leaders on the issue, while children are making headlines for striking from school.
    • Bill McKibben, whose book “The End of Nature” brought the idea of global warming to public consciousness thirty years ago, tells David Remnick that the accumulation of weather catastrophes—droughts, wildfires, floods—may have finally made an impact. McKibben joined Elizabeth Kolbert in a conversation about the U.N.’s new report on species extinction. It finds that a million species could become extinct within a few decades, and that human life itself may be imperilled. While the political tide could be turning, both worry that it is too late.

5/11/2019

  • 'Magic moment': Climate rises to the top for Democrats and gets a big new push: Environmentalists have predicted for years the next election would be fought on climate. This time they may be right, at least in the Democratic primary.
    • Climate change has recently shot to the top of polls of issues that Democratic voters care about in the presidential primary, rivaling for the first time longstanding bread-and-butter topics like health care — and a leading environmental group has plans to keep it that way.
  • Democrats challenge Trump’s UN nominee over climate change: Three Democratic senators are calling on President’s Donald Trump’s nominee for U.N. ambassador to clarify that she will put U.S. interests ahead of her own financial interests when it comes to climate change.
    • The Democrats say Kelly Craft, who was nominated as U.S. ambassador to the U.N. last week, has invested more than $60 million in oil companies and other fossil fuel interests. Her husband, Joe Craft, is CEO of Alliance Resource Partners, one of the largest U.S. coal producers.
    • The Democrats say Kelly Craft, who was nominated as U.S. ambassador to the U.N. last week, has invested more than $60 million in oil companies and other fossil fuel interests. Her husband, Joe Craft, is CEO of Alliance Resource Partners, one of the largest U.S. coal producers.
    • She and her husband are prominent Republican donors, and Joe Craft donated $1 million to Trump’s 2017 inauguration, according to the Center for Responsive Politics, a watchdog group. Craft, a Kentucky native, was backed for the U.N. post by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky. McConnell and his wife, Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao, are longtime family friends of the Crafts.
    • McConnell praised Kelly Craft as “an exceptional choice for this critical post” and said her “long record of service to her state and the nation” will enable to “serve with distinction as America’s voice to the world at the United Nations.”

5/10/2019

5/8/2019

  • US is hotbed of climate change denial, international poll finds: Out of 23 countries, only Saudi Arabia and Indonesia had higher proportion of doubters
    • But wider denial of climate science is down to a concerted campaign of misinformation by fossil fuel interests and aspects of American character, according to Margaret Klein Salamon, a clinical psychologist who founded the advocacy group Climate Mobilization.
  • 'It’s been killing us for 50 years': residents on living in Cancer Town: Reserve, Louisiana, has a higher risk of cancer than anywhere in America – a hazard residents must face every day. We hear their stories
    • Three years ago the federal Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) found that emissions from the Pontchartrain Works facility, in Reserve, were the primary cause of a cancer risk 50 times greater than the national average. The plant’s owners – originally DuPont but now the Japanese company Denka – have long disputed the science that classifies its primary pollutant, chloroprene, a likely carcinogen. But that hasn’t stopped residents routinely describing extraordinary health conditions they argue must be linked to the plant’s emissions.

5/7/2019

  • Climate anxiety is real, but there's something you can do about it: There's no clinical definition, but climate anxiety and grief or solastalgia — "the distress that is produced by environmental change impacting on people while they are directly connected to their home environment" — has become such a concern that the American Psychological Association created a 69-page climate-change guide to help mental health care providers.
    • 'Paralysis caused by fear is a real problem, said Susan Clayton, one of the lead authors of the American Psychological Association guide. "The psychological responses to climate change such as conflict avoidance, fatalism, fear, helplessness and resignation are growing," said Clayton, a psychology professor at the College of Wooster. "These responses are keeping us, and our nation, from properly addressing the core causes of and solutions for our changing climate and from building and supporting psychological resiliency."'
  • Humans Are Speeding Extinction and Altering the Natural World at an ‘Unprecedented’ Pace: Humans are transforming Earth’s natural landscapes so dramatically that as many as one million plant and animal species are now at risk of extinction, posing a dire threat to ecosystems that people all over the world depend on for their survival, a sweeping new United Nations assessment has concluded.
    • Its conclusions are stark. In most major land habitats, from the savannas of Africa to the rain forests of South America, the average abundance of native plant and animal life has fallen by 20 percent or more, mainly over the past century. With the human population passing 7 billion, activities like farming, logging, poaching, fishing and mining are altering the natural world at a rate “unprecedented in human history.”
    • At the same time, a new threat has emerged: Global warming has become a major driver of wildlife decline, the assessment found, by shifting or shrinking the local climates that many mammals, birds, insects, fish and plants evolved to survive in. When combined with the other ways humans are damaging the environment, climate change is now pushing a growing number of species, such as the Bengal tiger, closer to extinction.
    • A previous report by the group had estimated that, in the Americas, nature provides some $24 trillion of non-monetized benefits to humans each year. The Amazon rain forest absorbs immense quantities of carbon dioxide and helps slow the pace of global warming. Wetlands purify drinking water. Coral reefs sustain tourism and fisheries in the Caribbean. Exotic tropical plants form the basis of a variety of medicines.
  • Trump would face obstruction charges if he wasn't president, prosecutors say: Hundreds of former prosecutors sign open letter, saying it was clear Trump would have faced charges of obstruction of justice
  • A Mystery Frequency Disrupted Car Fobs in an Ohio City, and Now Residents Know Why: The source of the problem was a homemade battery-operated device designed by a local resident to alert him if someone was upstairs when he was working in his basement.
    • “The way he designed it, it was persistently putting out a 315 megahertz signal,” Mr. Glassburn said. That is the frequency many car fobs and garage door openers rely on.
  • 'We're living in emergency times': nature writer Barry Lopez's dire warning: We must learn from the wisdom of traditional societies, says the writer whose new book Horizon describes his life through his experience of six geographical regions
    • “Something very big is going on the like of which we have never seen,” Lopez tells me. “I’m trying to see the bigger thing that operates independently from the idea of nation state, what’s going on that’s transcultural, and who are the people worth listening to in a culture like ours where we have pretty much destroyed the elders. My supposition,” he continues, “is that we’re living in emergency times. In the west, we believe we are the most progressive and socially just, but a lot of that is just a hopeful illusion.”
    • Lopez doesn’t understand why we “won’t listen to people who are not like ourselves when we are getting the message every day that climate change doesn’t care if you’re male or female, black or gay. We should be having our elders have that conversation and then we defer to their decision.” He adds: “I trust that they know what they’re doing, and the more time I spend in the middle of this the more do I see the profound difference between a headlong culture like ours, that is attracted to drugs, attracted to possessions and attracted to progress, that sets up artificial hierarchies – that culture is moving so fast there can be no deliberation. In traditional culture, there is no interest in progress – what you have is pretty good. The idea is to assess anything that threatens stability.”
    • “In traditional society, the elders reject no one and consistently make the right decisions because they want the best for the group. Traditional people are focused on addressing situations that create instability and you have to face the fact they have been right for tens of thousands of years.” The results are plain to see. Lopez mentions the militia uprising in Sudan, the regimes in power in Brazil, the Philippines, Hungary – “all these Trumpsters coming into positions of power all over the world”. Depressing, certainly, and Lopez says he feels “as abused and intimidated as the next fellow”.
    • Lopez knows also that there are going to be hard decisions to make. “We’re already applying triage,” he says. The job at hand is to make clear to people “how completely unprecedented and dangerous this situation is, and how we’ve created a suicidal society in order that some can buy a 70ft yacht”.
    • “AOC is not the problem and she’s barely speaking about the deeper things that have to be considered. This is an emergency, and the changes she is advocating are part of a furious effort to get things moving. God bless AOC. Thank God she’s out there shouting …”
  • Humanity must save insects to save ourselves, leading scientist warns: Insects are ‘the glue in nature’, says Anne Sverdrup-Thygeson, underpinning the food and water we rely on
    • On Monday, the largest ever assessment of the health of nature was published and warned starkly that the annihilation of wildlife is eroding the foundations of human civilisation. The IPBES report said: “Insect abundance has declined very rapidly in some places … but the global extent of such declines is not known.” It said the available evidence supports a “tentative” estimate that 10% of the 5.5m species of insect thought to exist are threatened with extinction.
    • “There are lots of details to fill in, but I have read pretty much every study in English and I haven’t seen a single one where entomologists don’t believe the main message that a lot of insect species are definitely declining,” said Sverdrup-Thygeson. The destruction of natural environments to create farmland is the key cause, she said. “When you throw all the pesticides and climate change on top of that, it is not very cool to be an insect today.
  • The day a million species are announced to be on brink of extinction, U.S. says melting ice creates ‘new opportunities for trade’: “Steady reductions in sea ice are opening new passageways and new opportunities for trade,” Pompeo said.
    • U.S. allies in the Arctic Council — Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway, Sweden and Canada — were stunned by his stance.

5/6/2019

  • Human society under urgent threat from loss of Earth's natural life: Scientists reveal one million species at risk of extinction in damning UN report
    • The warning was unusually stark for a UN report that has to be agreed by consensus across all nations. Hundreds of scientists have compiled 15,000 academic studies and reports from indigenous communities living on the frontline of change. They build on the Millennium Ecosystem Assessment of 2005, but go much further by looking not just at an inventory of species, but the web of interactions between biodiversity, climate and human well-being.
    • “We tried to document how far in trouble we are to focus people’s minds, but also to say it is not too late if we put a huge amount into transformational behavioural change,” said David Obura, one of the main authors on the report and a global authority on corals. “This is fundamental to humanity. We are not just talking about nice species out there; this is our life support system.”
    • Agriculture and fishing are the primary causes of the deterioration. Food production has increased dramatically since the 1970s, which has helped to feed a growing global population and generated jobs and economic growth. But this has come at a high cost. The meat industry has a particularly heavy impact. Grazing areas for cattle accounts for about 25% of the world’s ice-free land and more than 18% of global greenhouse gas emissions. Crop production uses 12% of land and less than 7% of emissions.
    • The study paints a picture of a suffocating man-made sameness spreading across the planet, as a small range of cash-crops and high-value livestock are replacing forests and other nature rich ecosystems. As well as eroding the soil, which causes a loss of fertility, these monocultures are more vulnerable to disease, drought and other impacts of climate breakdown.
    • In terms of habitats, the deepest loss is of wetlands, which have drained by 83% since 1700 with a knock-on impact on water quality and birdlife. Forests are diminishing, particularly in the tropics. In the first 13 years of this century, the area of intact forest fell by 7%, an area of France and the UK combined. Although the overall rate of deforestation has slowed, this is partly an accounting trick as monoculture plantations replace biodiverse jungle and woodland.
    • The next 18 months will be crucial. For the first time, the issue of biodiversity loss is on the G8 agenda. The UK has commissioned Partha Dasgupta, a professor at Cambridge University, to write a study on the economic case for nature, which is expected to serve a similar function as the Stern Review on the Economics of Climate Change. Next year, China will host a landmark UN conference to draw up new global goals for biodiversity.
    • [ael: we are puttering while opportunities to act to save ourselves slip away.]
  • Here's why moderate drinking is probably not good for you: People who drink one to two standard drinks a day are the healthiest overall. But moderate drinking isn’t an isolated behaviour
  • One million species face extinction, U.N. report says. And humans will suffer as a result.
    • Nations that signed off on the study’s findings acknowledged that opposition from rich people invested in the status quo is expected. [ael: oh my God, they've finally figured out what the problem is….]
    • The U.N. report “means that nature is collapsing around us, and it’s a real wake-up call to humanity,” said Andrew Wetzler, managing director of the nature program for the Natural Resources Defense Council, a conservation group. Oceana senior adviser Philip Chou called the report a beacon for more action to address a crisis. “We are seeing alarming increases in the deaths of fish, marine mammals and turtles ingesting plastics,” Chou said. “These plastics break apart in the ocean into microscopic particles [that are] consumed by fish, fish we now eat.”
  • Alexa has been eavesdropping on you this whole time: When Alexa runs your home, Amazon tracks you in more ways than you might want.
    • You can listen to your own Alexa archive here.

5/5/2019

  • Global Warming Was Already Fueling Droughts in Early 1900s, Study Shows: Scientists say the surprising findings provide the clearest signal yet of how greenhouse gas emissions have led to changing soil conditions around the world.
    • Global warming has been fueling droughts since the early 20th Century, when soils started drying out at the same time across parts of North and Central America, Eurasia, Australia and the Mediterranean, new research shows. The researchers say the surprising early-century findings provide the clearest signal yet that human-caused greenhouse gas emissions have been changing the hydroclimate in ways that can devastate agriculture, health and livelihoods.
    • The distinctive regional patterns of drying linked with global warming disappeared from about 1950 to about 1975, when they likely were masked by another force that can affect the climate: massive emissions of industrial aerosols from coal-burning, cars and trucks, cement production and construction, the scientists said. Aerosols can cool the atmosphere and affect cloud formation, rainfall and temperatures. As industrial countries adopted pollution controls to protect people from the damaging health effects, the aerosol emissions slowed. And around 1981, the fingerprints of global warming on soil moisture were becoming evident again.
    • They also confirm other research showing that, in general with global warming, dry areas will get drier, while other regions get wetter, including western China, much of central Asia, the Indian subcontinent, Indonesia and central Canada. "The patterns of drying and wetting we see match the patterns we would expect from a global warming signal. It's very hard to come up with something that would cause it other than greenhouse gas forcing," said Jason Smerdon, a co-author of the study and climate scientist at Columbia.
    • They estimated soil moisture trends by analyzing tree ring records from around the world, each reflecting the local hydroclimate conditions year to year. Tree ring records dating back hundreds of years showed the drought patterns before humans started affecting the climate with greenhouse gas emissions, forest clearing and large-scale agriculture. The researchers then compared the pre-industrial drought patterns with data from the 20th Century. That enabled them to separate human-caused drought patterns from the natural variability of the pre-industrial era.
    • Those increasingly severe impacts include harm to human health. Another recent study showed how the long-running drought in the Southwestern U.S. has affected human health, both directly and indirectly. The scientists estimated that, in the past 15 to 20 years, airborne dust particles in the region had been associated with about 1,300 deaths per year. As the planet continues to warm, the study estimated how the level of airborne fine dust—and the number of dust-related deaths—would rise.
    • "One of the most surprising results is how big the potential impacts are. People don't really think about dust, but our study and many others starting to show that it's significant," said Ploy Achakulwisut, a public health and climate researcher at George Washington University and lead author of the study, published last month in the journal GeoHealth. And it's not just in the Southwest, she said, but also in densely populated areas including in China and Africa.
  • Wildly Underestimated Oilsands Emissions Latest Blow to Alberta’s Dubious Climate Claims: As disaster looms, petro province lets industry call the shots.
    • Trust us. That has long been the message from the oil sector to the Alberta public, which seems to have little choice in the matter. In a bizarre arrangement, the Alberta oil patch pays for its own oversight through the Alberta Energy Regulator — a regulatory body 100-per-cent funded by the fossil fuel sector. What could go wrong?
    • The latest boondoggle was revealed by an Environment Canada study published in the prestigious journal Nature Communications. It showed the methodology that energy companies have used for years to calculate carbon dioxide and methane emissions from oilsands surface mining operations underestimated contributions to global warming by a whopping 64 per cent.
    • The response to this bombshell research from the normally noisy petroleum sector has been studied silence, and understandably so. The oil patch has invested millions in lobbying and public relations efforts to convince consumers and regulators around the world that bitumen production has comparable emissions to conventional oil. Peer-reviewed science such as this can be an inconvenient truth.
    • Such regulatory incompetence might be more amusing if not for the tragic human costs seen with our rapidly changing climate. Homeowners across three provinces now struggle against the second 1,000-year flood in only two years. In Mozambique, 200,000 people remain imperiled after two cyclones in six weeks slammed into their coastal country. Even global bankers are calling for urgent action to tackle a looming climate catastrophe.

5/2/2019

5/1/2019

  • What lies beneath: Robert Macfarlane travels 'Underland': From prehistoric cave paintings to buried nuclear waste, underground spaces record how humans have lived. To explore Underland means voyaging into the deep past – and raises urgent questions about our planet’s future
    • We live in an age of untimely surfacings. Across the Arctic, ancient methane deposits are leaking through “windows” in the Earth opened by thawing permafrost. In the forests of eastern Siberia a vast crater yawns in softening ground, swallowing thousands of trees; local Yakutian people refer to it as the “doorway to the underworld”. In the “cursed fields” of northern Russia, permafrost melt is exposing 19th-century animal burial grounds containing naturally occurring anthrax spores; a 2016 outbreak infected 23 people and killed a child. Retreating glaciers are yielding the bodies of those engulfed by their ice many years before – the dead of the ongoing conflict in Kashmir, or the “White war” of 1915–18 in the Italian mountains. Near the peak of San Matteo, three Habsburg soldiers melted out of a serac at an altitude of 12,000ft, hanging upside down. At Camp One on Everest in 2017, after a period of unseasonal warmth, a mountaineer’s hand appeared, reaching out of the ice into which he had been frozen. Gold miners in the Yukon recently unearthed a 50,000-year-old wolf pup from the permafrost, eerily preserved right down to the curl of its upper lip.
    • Rebecca Altman, an environmental sociologist, has memorably tracked the modern history of “time-bombing” – the toxic legacies that are left by one generation for its successors, of which high-level nuclear waste is the most obvious example. Time-bombing is already occurring laterally, of course. William Gibson famously remarked that “the future is already here, it’s just unevenly distributed”. In today’s Anthropocene, the affluent experience the future in the form of technology, while the poor experience the future in the form of calamity.
  • U.S. Renewable Energy Just Set An Historic Record: In a historic first, renewable energy may have generated more electricity than coal in the entire U.S. for the month of April.
    • Coal has long been the backbone of the U.S. electric grid. In the 2000s, coal accounted for more than half of electricity generation. But while King Coal was not dethroned overnight, its demise has been years in the making.
    • According to the EIA’s latest Short-Term Energy Outlook, coal-fired power plants only accounted for 20 percent of total U.S. electricity generation in April, while renewables made up 24 percent. It’s the first time on record that renewable energy generated more than coal on a monthly basis. The trend is expected to continue in May, with coal accounting for 21 percent and renewables capturing 22 percent. Natural gas is the largest source of electricity in the U.S. at this point, taking home 35 percent in April and expected to account for 36 percent in May.
    • But the trend is clear: Coal is in terminal decline.

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