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Found 66 results

  1. Wildfires have been blazing on all summer, and the latest of them is occurring in Oregon, near the Columbia River Gorge. Owners of 140 homes have already evacuated, and despite the efforts of 400 firefighters, the flames have continued to spread over five square miles. Meanwhile in northern Idaho, another brushfire has burned across 64 square miles and destroyed five structures. But efforts to combat the blazes may be fruitless, because the money to fight them is running out. Tom Vilsack, U.S. Secretary of Agriculture, said Aug. 5 that the U.S. Forest Service's annual budget for fighting wildfires is rapidly dwindling; in fact, it may run out by the end of the month. The fires, on the other hand, will keep burning. He suggested they were in the midst of a catch-22, as when the Forest Service's funding runs dry, it will need to dip into other projects designed to help prevent future wildfires, in order to put out the ones currently blazing. Specifically, about $400-500 million will be taken away from such projects, putting the future in jeopardy in terms of further disasters. Vilsack, who is lobbying for an extra $615 million for the Forest Service to fight wildfires this year and next, remarked, "When we begin to run out of money, we have to dip into the very programs that will reduce the risk of these wildfires over [a longer period of] time." And those accounts aren't the only ones that suffer; in the past, they have also had to draw from other programs not related to wildfires. Such a transfer occurred in 2012, when the funding for road repairs in Arkansas' Ouachita National Forest was instead used to contend with fires throughout the U.S. The fire in Idaho, called the Big Cougar Fire, is only 15 percent contained, and 200 more structures in its path risk becoming damaged or destroyed unless firefighters can contain it further. Resources are being used while there's still funding for them, and include four helicopters, four fire engines, and three dozers. Isolated thunderstorms are expected, but those are unpredictable; rain could help quell the flames, but lightning could spark an entirely new blaze. One of the reasons the Forest Service and the Department of Agriculture are so hot and bothered over the depletion of yearly wildfire money is due to the likelihood that there will be many more fires. In the past, a depletion of funding by the end of August might have been manageable, but global warming has changed that. Wildfires are now likely to occur much later in the year than August. "The really amazing thing is that we don't just see an increase in one or two regions," said Philip Dennison, a geographer at the University of Utah in Salt Lake City. "We're seeing it almost everywhere - in the mountain regions, in the Southwest... That tells us that something bigger is going on, and that thing appears to be climate change." This increases the risk for firefighters as well - even more reason why sufficient funding is necessary. Robert Bonnie, undersecretary for natural resources with the Department of Agriculture, explained, "Fire behavior is more extreme now. We're seeing larger fires. We're seeing fires where we have more houses and people. That makes them more dangerous and more difficult to fight." The money isn't there because the Republican controlled Congress isn't doing anything to put it there, according to a report by U.S. News. A bill to overhaul the way wildfire fighting is funded was introduced by Rep. Mike Simpson, R-Idaho - and then promptly abandoned by him. Simpson gave no explanation why. Vicki Minor, executive director of the Wildland Firefighter Foundation, a nonprofit group that helps families of firefighters killed in the line of duty, said, "Because of these fires, we lose our watersheds, we lose our hunting ranges, we lose our homes. These fire seasons are not going away, and for them to not fund wildfires... I'm just disgusted with them."
  2. On August 4, scientists from the Louisiana Universities Marine Consortium released their annual measurement from the Gulf of Mexico's dead zone - in part, the product of the infamous 2010 BP oil spill. The results were troubling. The area of oxygen deprivation in the sensitive ecosystem has been estimated at 5,008 square miles this year. Though the current exacerbation of the issue is due to nitrogen and phosphorous pollution - the product of fertilizer runoff and wastewater discharges from treatment plants - the dead zone's creation is largely owed to the spill that poisoned the Gulf four years ago, flooding it with 170 million gallons of oil. In particular, the Gulf's coral community is suffering, according to a new study by scientists at Penn State University in State College, Pa. Using 3D seismic data from the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management and identifying 488 habitats within a 25-mile radius of the original spill site, they found that coral life there shows extensive lingering damage from the spill, suggesting that the disaster's footprint is much more severe than initially thought. "This study very clearly shows that multiple coral communities, up to 13.7 miles from the spill site and at depths over 5,905 feet, were impacted by the spill," said Charles Fisher, co-author of the study and professor of biology at Penn State. "One of the keys to coral's usefulness as an indicator species is that the coral skeleton retains evidence of damage long after the oil that originally caused the damage is gone." Jane Lubchenco, an Oregon State University marine biologist and director of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, remarked, "The BP oil spill could have been much worse, but the caution is that we still don't fully know the true extent of the damage. But there were likely acute impacts before the oil disappeared, and in fact, some of the oil that did come ashore continues to be suspended in the environment." Lead researcher of the Penn State study, Helen White, said most experts had previously linked coral damage to the oil spill, but added, "Now we can say it was definitely connected to the spill." The paper the scientists published elaborated, reading, "Coral colonies are vital oases for marine life in the chilly ocean depths. The injured and dying coral today has bare skeleton, loose tissue, and is covered in heavy mucus and brown fluffy material." And experts have spotted yet another piece of the spill's aftermath, which is its effect on insects, many of which play a vital role in maintaining the integrity of the ecosystem. Louisiana State University entomologist Linda Hooper-Bui said the real damage to bugs was likely done when Hurricane Isaac hit in 2012 and stirred up oil that had lain dormant on the ocean floor. This, said Hooper-Bui, affects the insects and spiders living in the marsh grasses nearby, some of which form the base of the area's food chain. Michael Blum, director of the Tulane/Xavier Center for Bioenvironmental Research, said, "During the spill, we were asking how long it would take to recover, and the prevailing notion was that we were looking at relatively short recovery times when focusing on coastal marsh and coastal ecosystems." Essentially, that it would "rebound in one to three years and in five years there'd be no indications of the spill. But four years on, there's still a pretty distinct signature of a response to the oil." Samantha Joye, a University of Georgia marine biologist, added that it could be a long time before scientists really have a handle on the ripple effect of the spill; the coral degradation, decline in insect population, and continuing growth of the dead zone are merely several aspects of the issue that have recently come to light. She said, "The long-term ecosystem impacts from the Deepwater Horizon oil spill are only beginning to be realized. Some areas have recovered well, but others remain significantly impacted. And the problem with this is that the [effects] are so heterogenerously distributed that long-term, system-scale monitoring is required to truly quantify the impacts."
  3. While here in Northern Italy there are 18º and a lot of rain, storms and a Autumn climate California is a little bit hotter. Here's a news for the people who believe climate change doesn't exist: California’s three-year drought just went from bad to dreadful. In the course of the last week, the crimson expanse of “exceptional drought” grew to engulf the northern part of the state. The following chart , showing the drought's progession since 2011, speaks for itself: All of California is in "severe drought" (shown in orange), and 82 percent is rated “extreme drought” (in red). The agency’s highest drought rating — “exceptional drought” (crimson) -- now covers 58 percent of the state, up from 36 percent a week ago. California is becoming Sahara. Cheer up, beautiful people, it’s not the worst drought California has ever seen: in 1977, the state’s water storage was at 41 percent of the historical average but conditions are still getting worse. California is famous for its agriculture sector, especially wine grapes which are located most in the Cental Valley, the heart of agriculture, that now is in a terrible crisis. To face this drought Governor Jerry Brown has called for a statewide voluntary reduction of water use by 20 percent, and residents now face fines of as much as $500 a day for wasting water. They should have think to that earlier but it's the nature of humans, thinking that prevention is useless and not effective. Let's here what NASA said about the drought (spoiler alert: they made a joke): “California is supposed to be the Golden State. Make that golden brown” sad but true “According to the US Dept. of Agriculture and NOAA, dry conditions have become extreme across more than 62% of California’s land area—and there is little relief in sight”. California produces 20% of U.S. GDP and this drought is effecting the economy of the state and the people, because of the situation thousands of farmers are losing their jobs. On January 18th 2014 Govern Jerry Brown declared the state of emergency and it was a winter month. Now it's Summer and with a further increase of temperatures the situation's getting worse. Any solutions? Not really, this problem is effecting California for decades but this time is the worst because of climate change. The best solution should have been prevention, too late for that. Preventing any waste of water, low the levels of CO2. Everybody keep saying that, let's hope this time things will change. References from Bloomberg.com and Nasa.gov Photo from BusinessInsider.com
  4. President Obama used his executive authority on June 17 to create the world's largest marine sanctuary. This has huge implications for the environment, as it bans commercial fishing, mining, and oil exploration in a major portion of the Pacific Ocean. The move will bypass Republican lawmakers who have long acted as roadblocks to environmental struggles, and could protect up to 800,000 square miles of the south-central Pacific from commercial and corporate exploitation. To this end, the Obama administration also announced the development of a new task force that will combat illegal fishing operations in the Pacific. The President will also consult with scientists and conservationists before determining the precise location and geographic scope of the sanctuary. It will, however, border and vastly expand the areas around the Pacific Remote Islands Marine National Monument, which was established back in 2009 and placed 77,020 square miles under the protection of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. Obama also sought to add more national monuments. In a continuation of his use of executive power, under the Antiquities Act of 1906, he will designate 11 new national monuments on land across the U.S., allowing a plethora of new protections for millions of acres of precious wilderness. "We can protect our oceans for future generations," said the President. "Growing up in Hawaii, I learned to appreciate the beauty and power of the ocean. And like Presidents Clinton and Bush before me, I'm going to use my authority as President to protect some of our most precious marine landscapes, just like we do for mountains and rivers and forests." The move came directly on the heels of a bold and direct speech by Obama during a commencement address at the University of California-Irvine on June 14. During that address, the President openly criticized the obstinance of Republicans who denied the threat of climate change and the need to defend the environment. He encouraged young voters to speak out about environmentalism and reiterated the need to get legislation passed to change things for the better. With this plan for what will be the largest protected marine area in history, it would seem that Obama is showing he has lived up to his words. The White House's new task force is part and parcel of Obama's new initiative. It will be called the Presidential Task Force on Combating Illegal, Unreported, and Unregulated Fishing and Seafood Fraud, and will report to the National Ocean Council, which itself was established via executive order in 2010. Obama explained that illegal and unregulated fishing in the Pacific continues to "undermine the economic and environmental sustainability of fisheries and fish stocks. Global losses attributable to the black market from such fishing are estimated to be $10-23 billion annually, weakening profitability for legally caught seafood, fueling illegal trafficking operations, and undermining economic opportunity for legitimate fishermen in the U.S. and around the world." Meanwhile, anti-environment Republicans and corporate oil executives are likely seething over the development of the marine sanctuary. Thousands of square miles of what oil companies see as potential territory for offshore drilling will now be closed off to them. And in addition to defending the waters from such tampering, the area's tuna and other fish stocks will be able to recover and increase their numbers. Obama made the announcement at a State Department Our Ocean conference; amongst the attendees was actor Leonardo DiCaprio, who had been strongly pushing for such a move and had previously donated $3 million to the Oceana conservation group. He declared he would now donate an additional $7 million over the next two years to "meaningful ocean protection" and to bolster the President's move. DiCaprio called the interference of oil corporations and illegal fishing markets "the Wild West on the high seas," and called for "an end to the incessant plundering of the ocean and its vital resources." He added that this is a worldwide problem, remarking, "Since my very first dive in the Great Barrier Reef in Australia 20 years ago, to the dive I got to do in the very same location just two years ago, I've witnessed environmental devastation firsthand. What once looked like an endless underwater utopia is now riddled with bleached coral reefs and massive dead zones." Secretary of State John Kerry added, "Most people think the ocean is larger than life; an endless resource impossible to destroy. But people underestimate the enormous damage that we as humans are inflicting upon the ocean every day."
  5. President Obama gave a de facto follow-up to his previous climate change speech on June 14, during his commencement address at the University of California-Irvine. In a bold and positive move, he called out climate change deniers, emphasized the urgency of the matter, and called on students to push the issue beyond the current partisan divide in Washington, D.C. He criticized the negative remarks made by Republicans in Congress, such as those of Rep. Dana Rohrabacher, R-Calif., who claimed that the effects of climate change, if any, were "unknowable;" and Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., who diverted questions on global warming and simply said he was not a scientist. "One doesn't need to be a scientist," Obama pointed out, "to act on scientific issues while in public office." The President said that when Americans were set on a course for the moon, "nobody ignored the science. I don't remember anyone saying that the moon wasn't there or that it was made of cheese. Today's Congress, though, is full of folks who stubbornly and automatically reject the scientific evidence about climate change. They will tell you it's a hoax, or a fad. There are some who also duck the question. They say, 'Hey, look, I'm not a scientist.' And I'll translate that for you: what that really means is, 'I know that climate change is happening, but if I admit it, I'll be run out of town by a radical fringe that thinks climate change is a liberal plot, so I'm not going to admit it.'" Vox writer Ezra Klein said the speech was a diverse one in that it "was about more than just the Republican Party. It was an impassioned case for why climate action is necessary. And it was, politically, a speech that showed Obama is done trying to convince Republicans to work with him on climate change and has moved on to trying to convince the public - and in particular, the next generation of American voters." Obama is indeed clearly trying to work with young environmentalists, as evident by his remarks: "People are [too busy] thinking about politics instead of thinking about what's good for the next generation. The reason I'm telling you this is because I want to light a fire under you. As the generation getting shortchanged by inaction on this issue, I want all of you to understand you cannot accept that this is the way it has to be. You're going to have to push those in power to do what this American moment demands. You've got to educate your classmates, colleagues, family members, and fellow citizens, and tell them what's at stake. You've got to push back against the misinformation and speak out for facts." Ben Adler, Grist.org writer, pointed out that Obama's act of reaching out to the new generation is a smart move. He said, "Republicans will never embrace climate action just because most people passively support it, or because environmentalists ardently do, but young people could entice them. The millennial generation is growing in electoral strength, leaning heavily Democratic but showing signs of disappointment with the Democrats. If young voters really did show elected officials that support for climate change is a prerequisite for their votes, Republicans might eventually take notice." "I'm not a scientist either," said the President. "But we've got some really good ones at NASA. I do know that the overwhelming majority of scientists who work on climate change, including some who once disputed the data, have since put that debate to rest." It's time, he concluded, "to invest in what helps and divest in what harms. We have to realize that climate change is no longer a distant threat. It has moved firmly into the present." This article was originally published in People's World by Blake Deppe.
  6. A new poll shows that Americans are willing to pay more to curb climate change. The very same poll also shows that people are more likely to support politicians that seeks to address the climate crisis. According to the Bloomberg National Poll, nearly a two-to-one margin, 62 percent to 33 percent, say they are prepared to pay more for energy if it would result in a reduction of carbon emissions. “It is a rare poll where people responding will stand up and say ‘tax me,’” said J. Ann Selzer, who conducted the poll for Bloomberg. The result differs depending on people’s political affiliations. Only 46 percent of Republicans are willing to accept higher energy bills, with 49 percent being against such climate policies. This result can be compared to the 82 percent of Democrats and 60 percent of independents who are in favor of higher energy bills to curb carbon emissions. Government officials expect that, if approved, Obama’s historic plan to cut carbon emissions will result in a 10 percent increase in electric utility rates by 2030. More than half of the respondents – mainly female, young and independent people – say they want to see climate policies from the U.S. government. They would also back candidates in the midterm elections that supports political measures to curb climate change. But again, the poll shows the deep divide between U.S. political lines. 70 percent of Democrats and 51 percent of independents say they are more likely to support pro-climate candidates. But only 28 percent of Republicans would do the same. The Bloomberg poll also shows that a majority see climate change as a threat, with 46 percent of the respondents classifying it as a “major” threat and 27 percent as a “minor threat.” Disappointingly, it seems that 43 percent of the respondents believe that climate scientists “manipulate their findings for political reasons” – with only 48 percent saying that they “trust” the warnings from scientists.
  7. Yesterday Obama administration decided to cut 30% of carbon emissions from power plants by 2030 through an ambitious and brilliant plan. Wonderful news for the workers in renewable power plants, less for who works in a carbon plant. But which is the state that has to cut the emissions most of all? At the top there’s Lone Star State. The nation’s top emitter of greenhouse gases, Texas would account for more than a quarter of the total cuts in greenhouse gases that would be required, according to data compiled by Bloomberg. At the top positions we can find Florida, Pennsylvania and Arizona. Rick Perry, republican, governor of Texas, runner for the White House in 2012 (and maybe in 2016), isn’t so happy. The plan “is the most direct assault yet on the energy providers that employ thousands of Americans, and fuel both our homes and our nation’s economic growth,” Perry said in a statement. Apparently he prefer having an air full of CO2. Fortunately other states, like Washington, were more supportive. “We have an obligation to protect our state, our economy and our environment for our children and for future generations,” Washington Governor Jay Inslee (D) said in a statement. Again, Democrats and Republicans are divided on climate change and it’s hard to understand. Does it mean that all the Republicans will oppose this revolutionary plan just to keep alive a dangerous energy system? Next generations hope not. The plan’s benefits are historical: by reducing both the risks of climate change, and the pollution associated with coal-fired power plants, the administration said that the plan would lead to $90 billion in climate and health benefits. It would cost utilities and other companies up to $8.8 billion. Fortunately Texas’s got what it needs to cut the emissions. In fact, Texas is the nation’s top wind-power producer. “Luckily, we have more renewable resources than anyone else,” Armendariz, former EPA top official in Texas, said in an interview. “We just need to do what Texans know how to do: roll up our sleeves and get to work.”
  8.   And in Brazil they use ten of these conveyor belt boats in the Rio de Janeiro bay to collect 15 tons of garbage from the water - every single day. But despite this, Brazil won't make its own "clean water" targets that it set up ahead of the Olympics.   "Brazil will not make good on its commitment to clean up Rio de Janeiro's sewage-filled Guanabara Bay by the 2016 Olympic Games, state environmental officials acknowledged [...] Authorities pledged to cut by 80 percent the flow of pollution into Guanabara Bay by the 2016 Games through the expansion of the sewage network and the construction of River Treatment Units, or RTUs, built at the mouths of rivers flowing into the bay. The facilities would filter out much of the sewage and trash. But little progress has been made on either front, and with just over two years to go until the Olympics, nearly 70 percent of the sewage in the metropolitan area of 12 million inhabitants continues to flow untreated, along with thousands of tons of garbage daily, into area rivers, the bay and even Rio's famed beaches like Copacabana and Ipanema." Read more here: http://www.thenewstribune.com/2014/05/17/3200014/rio-official-water-pollution-targets.html
  9. The Golden State is being blackened by the most menacing brushfires in nearly two decades. As climate change continues to rear its ugly head, thousands of places including homes, a university campus, a nuclear plant, and parts of military bases have been evacuated in southern California. Nine fires have already burned more than 10,000 acres, and unfortunately, the blazes have merely gotten off to an early start. Experts believe the fires will worsen and spread more quickly as summer approaches. The fires broke out on May 13, prompting Gov. Jerry Brown to declare a state of emergency for San Diego County. Paul Mendes, police captain of Carlsbad, Calif., remarked, "This is May. This is unbelievable. This is extreme. This has gone from dry conditions to volatile conditions." So far there is one reported fatality, and at least 20 buildings were destroyed in Carlsbad alone, with one burning house visibly exploding from an unknown cause. Santa Ana winds were whipping up and fanning the flames, making the situation direr. Several firenados were observed - devastating flaming cyclones that develop during very intense wildfires. Though those winds have begun to die down now, Mayor Matt Hall warned, "That does not mean they may not pick up again." "A heat wave and tinder-dry brush have created a dynamic, dangerous situation," California fire captain Mike Mohler said. "It's just unfortunately a recipe for a large fire and that's what we're seeing right now." Something of a reprieve, at least, was expected today, according to meteorologist Jon Erdman. He said, "Santa Ana winds, record heat, and low humidity will persist in southern California through Thursday. Beginning Friday, winds will begin to turn onshore, with much cooler 60s and 70s returning to the coast this weekend." In Carlsbad today, however, it is currently still almost 90 degrees. On a more positive note, firefighters are reporting that the fire there is about 50 percent contained - a large uptick from the mere 10 percent two days ago. Some evacuation orders have been lifted. Officials estimated the Carlsbad wildfire alone has caused $18.5 million in damage so far. Another fire near San Marcos is only five percent contained and has produced smoke plumes so large they can be seen from space. Seven more fires are still being fought in other areas. Meanwhile, some 2,300 people across San Diego County are dealing with power outages, according to San Diego Gas and Electric. Gov. Brown stated, "The heat is terrible. The last few years have been the driest in recorded California history. They think they've got this [Carlsbad fire] contained, or are about to have it contained. But they've got other fires all over the place, and most serious of all, California has a fire season that is getting longer. And the most serious fires have occurred in the last decade, so things are getting worse." He said the blazes were undeniably tied to global warming, adding, "Despite what you hear in Washington, climate change is a factor here. It's not about theory. It's not about politics. This is about fires on the ground, people's homes, firefighters. And yes, these conditions are definitely caused by climate change; global warming induced by human activity. So we've got to make changes. But right now in California we are dealing with it and handling it as best we can." San Diego fire chief Javier Mainar said, "It is pretty amazing to see these fires in May. We certainly have seen climate change and the impact of climate change. My understanding is we've seen twice the number of wildfire starts in the state of California as we typically see this time of year." On Thursday, some Carlsbad residents returned to find their homes gone. The fires, and in particular the firenadoes, in many cases demolished and flattened entire houses. "We walked up to our place, and it was like a bomb went off," said resident Anya Bannasch. "I can't even explain just how horrific it was." The fires are an ongoing disaster, and far from over, she said. There are "other families out there that are going through this right now," she added. "There's fires everywhere." This article was first published in People's World by Blake Deppe.
  10. In what could become a defining moment in environmental history, President Obama unveiled a plan on June 2 to cut carbon emissions by nearly a third within 15 years. It is the centerpiece of a larger climate action plan, and could prove to be one of the most important initiatives ever to fight climate change. "Right now," said Obama, "there are no national limits to the amount of carbon pollution that existing plants can pump into the air we breathe - none. We limit the amount of toxic chemicals like mercury, sulfur, and arsenic that power plants put in our air and water. But they can dump unlimited amounts of carbon pollution into the air. It's not smart, it's not safe, and it doesn't make sense." The plan is already facing a wave of hostility from Republicans, who believe it will kill jobs. Obama dismissed this criticism, noting, "Special interests and their allies in Congress will claim that these guidelines will kill jobs and crush the economy. But let's face it, that's what they always say. They warned that doing something about the smog choking our cities, and acid rain poisoning our lakes, would kill business. It didn't. Our air got cleaner, acid rain was cut dramatically, and our economy kept growing." In fact, if this carbon reduction goal is met, it could produce "net climate and health benefits totaling $48-82 billion," according to the EPA. EPA administrator Gina McCarthy said the new rules would be critical in moving the rest of Obama's climate action plan forward. "The EPA is delivering on a vital piece of the plan by proposing a clean power plan that will cut harmful carbon pollution from plants. This is not just about disappearing polar bears and melting ice caps. This is about protecting our health, our homes, our local economies, and our jobs." Pollution reduction targets will vary based on what is best for each state; for example, the Rust Belt relies heavily on coal-fired plants, but some states, like Iowa, now generate over 20 percent of their energy from renewable sources. Plans will thus be adjusted accordingly. Some activists believe the state-by-state setup could be problematic, particularly in those that heavily lean on coal. Indiana, for instance, gets 80 percent of its electricity from coal. Republican Gov. Mike Pence vowed to fight the plan, remarking, "Indiana will oppose these regulations using every means available." Obama's counselor John Podesta addressed the concerns, stating, "While I am sure there will be holdouts amongst the states, most utilities will also want to work with their regulators to ensure successful implementation." He acknowledged that Republicans will "find various ways to try and stop us from using the authority we have under the Clean Air Act. All I would say is that those have zero percent chance of working, and we're committed to moving forward." Greenpeace applauded the ruling, remarking, "The plan shows that President Obama is serious about pushing the power sector away from coal and toward renewable energy, and that commitment couldn't come any sooner. Global warming is already affecting the lives of Americans in every single corner of our country, and things will get dramatically worse if we don't switch from coal, gas, and oil to renewables like wind and solar." In a separate statement, Greenpeace Climate and Energy Campaign director Gabe Wisniewski warned that the opposition would come not just from right-wing politicians, but industries and lobbyists like the American Legislative Exchange Council. While that pushback is to be expected, he added, it makes little sense, as "the most successful and innovative businesses in the country are sprinting to adopt renewable energy." "The President promised he would act to tackle the climate crisis and protect the health of our children and grandchildren, and he is keeping his word," said Michael Brune, executive director of the Sierra Club. "These aren't just the first-ever protections to clean up carbon pollution from power plants, they also represent the largest single step any president has ever taken to fight climate disruption." EcoWatch founder and CEO Stefanie Spear said June 2 was "a really historic day for our country. These guidelines will help foster clean energy and efficiency while cleaning up the nation's air. We really need to show how renewables do work. We can power our country from wind, from solar, from other renewable sources, and energy efficiency has a vital role in all of this." Sheryl Carter, co-director of the National Resources Defense Council's energy program, added, "Energy efficiency is the cheapest, fastest, and cleanest way to cut carbon emissions, and it benefits local communities enormously by putting people to work and lowering bills. We are already seeing clear examples of efficiency in action, with huge job and money-savings benefits based on real-world experience by states. This analysis shows that carbon standards that use efficiency as a key strategy will expand these benefits to a much bigger scale. We need to do this now." This article was originally published in People's World by Blake Deppe.
  11. The California Fish and Game Commission voted on June 4 to grant endangered species protections to gray wolves. This is the first time the state has stepped into the issue over the species, which is losing protection and being killed in several states, and which is expanding to territories it had not inhabited for decades in others. One such territory might be the Golden State itself, where a gray wolf pup was spotted in the northern part of the state in 2011. Environment authorities believe that pup later found a mate and began denning in Oregon. California now joins Oregon and Washington in providing safe passage for these wolves that are repopulating their former range. This comes at a time when wolves in other states have not been so lucky; 80 percent of those in Wyoming can be shot on sight after the state marked them a "trophy game animal." Environmental groups thus applauded California for making the correct choice on gray wolves. Amaroq Weiss, of the Center for Biological Diversity, remarked, "The Pacific states are the last, best place for wolves. We have the progressive attitudes and social values where people embrace wildlife, no matter if it's got teeth or claws." Experts believe the wolves denning in Oregon will eventually establish a pack in northern California. Damon Nagami, an attorney for the Natural Resources Defense Council, declared, "While other states bicker and quarrel, California adds the latest chapter to one of the world's greatest biological success stories. The dispersal of wolves out of the northern Rockies will help to bring balance to other ecosystems in need of their stabilizing influence." Gray wolves have taken much flak from oppositional groups, which include hunters and ranchers. They have been called everything from "killing machines that gut calves for fun" to "coyotes on steroids that will take livestock, attack ranchers, and ruin the industry." These claims, however, are greatly exaggerated, and do not match up with the fact that gray wolves' population in such areas continues to be sparse. In Oregon, there are only a little over two dozen wolves, and this is the result of a reintroduction to Yellowstone National Park that began as far back as 1995. California Fish and Game Commission member Michael Sutton, a former Yellowstone ranger, said, "There is no more iconic animal in the American West than this one. We owe it to them to do everything we can to help them recolonize their historic range in our state." The Sierra Club stated, "Wolves are among the most charismatic animals in America. The howl of the wolf is emblematic of our country's last wild areas, a reminder of strength and beauty in the natural world. Wolves are vitally important to maintaining the natural balance, culling out weak and sick animals to keep populations in check. The rippling benefits of wolf reintroduction can be seen throughout the region - from the reappearance of willow and aspen trees, to the return of beavers, and increased populations of red foxes. Nevertheless, habitat loss, unregulated hunting, and negative stereotypes continue to reduce their numbers." This article was originally published in People's World by Blake Deppe.
  12. One day after the US unveiled their plan to cut carbon emissions with 20 percent by 2030, a top senior adviser to the Chinese government said that the country will set limits to their carbon emissions from 2016. Reuters report that He Jiankun, chairman of China's Advisory Committee on Climate Change, told a conference in Beijing earlier today that China will introduce an absolute cap on carbon emissions from 2016. “The government will use two ways to control CO2 emissions in the next five-year plan, by intensity and an absolute cap,” He said. Although later during the day He seemed to downplay his earlier comments, saying that he was only expressing his “personal view” and that they do not represent the views of the Chinese government - potentially after pressure from the latter. “What I said today was my personal view,” He said. “The opinions expressed at the workshop were only meant for academic studies. What I said does not represent the Chinese government or any organization.” If China were to set a cap on their carbon emissions, it would be a major game changer for international climate talks. So far these talks have suffered from a North versus South, rich versus poor, divide where the U.S. and China have been arguing over who should take the first step to limit carbon emissions. “The Chinese announcement marks potentially the most important turning point in the global scene on climate change for a decade,” said Michael Grubb, a professor of international energy and climate policy at University College London, to Reuters. In 2006, China dethroned the U.S. and became the world’s largest emitter of greenhouse gases, and their emissions continue to rise steadily. A cap on carbon emissions is therefore very much needed, but the actual impact of such a cap is dependent on which limit and sector its applied to. “Interesting hint from Beijing, although the key point will be where (the cap) is set. If ambitious and announced well in advance of Paris, it could be a game changer,” Connie Hedegaard, Climate Action Commissioner for the European Union, said in a response. Following the announcement from the U.S. yesterday and today’s hint from China, things are clearly starting to move again after the huge failure in Copenhagen back in 2009. The big climate summit in Paris next year will be exciting. But it’s doubtful that China will, and even can, limit their carbon emissions before 2030.
  13. Today the Obama administration announced its plan to cut 30 percent of carbon emissions from power plants by 2030. The new emission standards are historic and are called the strongest action taken by the U.S. so far to curb the effects of climate change. It’s also the first time ever that an American president wants to regulate carbon dioxide emissions from power plants. EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy said that the Clean Power Plan would ensure a healthier environment, spur innovation and strengthen the economy and create jobs. “Climate change, fueled by carbon pollution, supercharges risks to our health, our economy, and our way of life,” McCarthy said. “By leveraging cleaner energy sources and cutting energy waste, this plan will clean the air we breathe while helping slow climate change so we can leave a safe and healthy future for our kids.” Coal lobbyist say the plan will create an energy crisis and force hundreds of coal plants to close. But experts say that investments in renewable energy, an industry that already employs 6.5 million people globally, will “explode” as a result of Obama’s new proposal. “If you’re working in the solar or wind industry, you should feel very happy right now. Those are the industries growing faster than the rest of economy,” Mike Brune, executive director of the Sierra Club, said to Al Jazeera America. “It’s clear that those are going to be the industries to work in, invest in and watch. They’re about to explode in terms of growth.” If the proposal goes through, it could lead to a transformation of the whole energy economy in America, as well as playing a vital role in international climate negotiations – successfully putting pressure on China and India to also limit their use of coal. The new proposal, issued by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), mainly targets the country’s 600 coal plants and would result in a 30 percent reduction by 2030 from carbon levels recorded in 2005. The 2005 baseline is politically important as it makes the target much easier to hit. Carbon emissions were much lower at this time than only a few years back. In 2013, the emissions were 10 percent lower compared to only eight years prior. Setting a baseline much further back would have made a bigger impact on climate change – but it would also make the proposal harder to sell. Despite this, the reactions from environmental groups are generally positive but they stress that Obama, and the plan, can do much more. “The new rule shows that the Obama administration is serious about taking action on climate change, but the Administration could and should strengthen it considerably,” Greenpeace director Gabe Wisniewski said in a statement. But the plan might not come into effect until 2017 or 2018 – long after Obama has left office. First, the plan is open for public comment until June next year. After that, all 50 states will participate in a regulatory process where they will determine how to reduce their emissions. The 30 percent target is for all of U.S., this means that targets for individual states varies depending on their current usage of coal. The state of Ohio will have a target of 28 percent, while Kentucky and Wyoming only have to cut emissions by 18 and 19 percent respectively. The proposal could potentially also be in jeopardy if the Republicans were to form an administration before it becomes law.
  14. Half the U.S. is now in a drought

    The U.S. National Drought Monitor reports that half of the United States is now experiencing drought - with nearly 15 percent of the nation gripped by extreme drought (see the >map below). The scale and severity of the drought is  especially worrying. Another concern is the persistence of this drought, with droughts staying in force for longer and longer periods.   The entire state of California is currently affected by extreme drought. This has a serious impact on the fruit and vegetable agriculture sector in California as well as for grains and livestock in the Plains and South Central West. It's expected that at least 54 percent of the U.S. wheat crop, 30 percent of corn, and 48 percent of cattle is affected by some level of drought.     And in the east of the U.S. it's almost the opposite. A recently released report confirms that climate change is already impacting the United States. The number of extreme weather events, including very heavy rain events, has increased in the eastern parts of the nation. The number of extreme rain events has already increased over 70 percent in the Northeast.   Are you experiencing any of this extreme weather?
  15. USA drought map

    From the album Random images

    As of May 6, 2014, half of the United States was experiencing some level of drought. Nearly 15 percent of the nation was gripped by extreme to exceptional drought. For the Plains and the Southwest, it’s a pattern that has been persistent for much of the past several years, U.S. Drought Monitor writes.

    © U.S. Drought Monitor

  16. The just-released National Climate Assessment confirms that growing impacts from climate change, predicted by scientists, are already hitting the U.S. They include significant shifts in precipitation patterns, melting permafrost, longer fire seasons, severe and sustained drought especially in the Southwest, storm and erosion impacts from rising sea level, and much more. The report, released by the White House on Tuesday, looks at the difference in regional impacts. Particularly hardest hit is Alaska, with small communities already having to move inland due to permafrost melting, coastal erosion and the more rapid increase in average temperatures in the Arctic. The Southeast, though it has observable impacts, shows the least changes thus far due to global warming. Some areas of the Midwest will have longer growing seasons, at least in the short term, but areas dependent on snow pack melting for water are already facing earlier springs with earlier melting of the snow, causing serious problems for agriculture in the late summer. Unless there is a shift away from still-escalating greenhouse gas emissions, the report warns, U.S. average temperatures by the end of this century could reach 10 degrees Fahrenheit. The impacts could be catastrophic. Already, growing stress on water resources is causing conflicts between urban dwellers, farmers, other agricultural interests. The drought currently experienced in California is just a taste of longer and more severe droughts in that region, already significantly water-stressed. In the eastern U.S., the number of extreme weather events, including very heavy rain events, has increased already. The number of extreme rain events has already increased over 70 percent in the Northeast. These varying impacts are being seen across many industries. The report notes, "Corn producers in Iowa, oyster farmers in Washington State, and maple syrup producers in Vermont are all observing climate related changes." The report concludes: "Americans are noticing changes all around them. Summers are longer and hotter, and extended periods of unusual heat last longer than any living American has ever experienced. Winters are generally shorter and warmer. Rain comes in heavier downpours. People are seeing changes in the length and severity of seasonal allergies, the plant varieties that thrive in their gardens, and the kinds of birds they see in any particular month in their neighborhoods." Also noted is the impact on human health: "... increasingly frequent and intense heat events lead to more heat-related illnesses and deaths and, over time, worsen drought and wildfire risks, and intensify air pollution. Increasingly frequent extreme precipitation and associated flooding can lead to injuries and increases in waterborne disease. Rising sea surface temperatures have been linked with increasing levels and ranges of diseases. Rising sea levels intensify coastal flooding and storm surge, and thus exacerbate threats to public safety during storms." The National Climate Assessment report, the third in the last 14 years, implicitly rejects the anti-science approach of the climate change deniers and the climate "confusionists." It insists upon an evidence-based observation of reality as we are already experiencing it: "Multiple lines of independent evidence confirm that human activities are the primary cause of the global warming of the past 50 years. The burning of coal, oil, and gas, and clearing of forests have increased the concentration of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere by more than 40 percent since the Industrial Revolution, and it has been known for almost two centuries that this carbon dioxide traps heat. Methane and nitrous oxide emissions from agriculture and other human activities add to the atmospheric burden of heat-trapping gases." While Republicans and coal-state Democrats have obstructed all efforts to develop a national response to climate change, many cities and states are beginning to make policy shifts to decrease greenhouse gas emissions, and to adjust to the changes now upon us. While this assessment focuses on the science, on the observed changes in process, and on public policy changes for policy makers to consider, it does not deal with the many different and growing struggles taking place on environmental and climate issues. The struggle against the Keystone XL pipeline is bringing together unique coalitions such as the Cowboy and Indian Alliance that recently sponsored a week of actions in Washington D.C. Farmers, Native American tribes, and environmental groups are uniting to oppose the interests of the big energy corporations, which propose to trample on the land these groups depend on. Anti-fracking struggles are taking place in many parts of the country, opposing the threats to our drinking water systems, the increases in earthquakes due to fracking, and the devastation wreaked on nearby communities. The movement to demand that cities, states, pension funds, and university endowment funds divest from fossil fuel companies got a boost from the decision this week by Stanford University to withdraw all of its funds from fossil fuel "investments." The divestment movement, already successful at several major universities and cities such as Seattle, is growing internationally. 350.org is coordinating these efforts here in the U.S. and working with many organizations worldwide to put the fossil fuel companies on notice that they will pay political, public relations, and economic prices for their profit-taking on production destructive of our common future. The assessment says, "Adaptation and mitigation are closely linked; adaptation efforts will be more difficult, more costly, and less likely to succeed if significant mitigation actions are not taken." Action must be taken on the individual, city, regional, national, and international levels if humanity as a whole is to avoid the worst consequences of global warming which will occur if there isn't a change from business as usual. The sooner we act, the cheaper and more effective our policy responses will be. As millions or people around the world engage in struggle on climate issues, they are bringing democratic pressure to bear on those who want to confuse us, who want to delay collective action so their private interests can continue to make excess profits. This article was first published in People's World by Marc Brodine.
  17. National Climate Assessment coverage

    How cable news covered a landmark climate change report.
  18. The Keystone pipeline proposal has hit a Nebraska stop sign, but it has deeper problems than right-of-way issues across the United States. After all, the controversial proposal for transporting Canada's tar sands was never just about the pipeline. Just ask the thousand students who rallied in front of the White House recently and were willing to be arrested to make their point. Frustrated and angry over a lack of political action on climate change, our Millennial Generation is not tolerating an ineffectual Congress or president. This 18-34 year old group in the United States is 74 million strong and when the worst happens will suffer the most from climate change. With little representation in Congress, where the average age is 60, they are looking to civil disobedience as a strategy to create the political will to address this threat. This will happen not only in our nation's capitol but on the streets of major cities across the nation. The fight over Keystone is really about a generational shift in our energy paradigm and how we will survive the 21st century. It concerns the wealth and jobs that the fossil fuels industry creates, how it has weaved itself into all of our lives and pulled us into a formidable dependency. With a growing foreboding, however, we are sensing our carbon lifestyle may be lethal to future generations and if they are to survive it is incumbent on us to accelerate efforts to develop other energy sources. From Washington, D.C. and Nebraska courts, this conflict now swings to Canada, where the Alberta government owns 81 percent of its oil sands and has a long list of investment partners. Besides multinational corporations, one of its biggest sources of investment capital for mining is China, our planet's largest producer of greenhouse gases. Alberta looks to collect $1.2 trillion in royalties from its oil sands over the next 35 years, but has increasingly drawn the world's attention because of the massive girth of pollution from the mining and burning of bitumen tar. Canada also faces a disenfranchised youth, who feel their voices and futures have been diminished by the enormous profits bitumen tar sands portend. They are joined by First Nations aboriginal tribes who share the same political paucity and frustration. Despite the economic benefits of bitumen tar mining on their lands, First Nations people are taking a grim view of irreversible health and cultural damage. It is a seminal decision for First Nations to continue its relationship with Canadian oil interests and on a larger scale, analogous with our world's factious accord on reducing the role of fossil fuels in our lives. The world's climate scientists essentially agree that if left unchecked, anthropogenic CO2 will worsen extreme weather, raise sea levels and create mass extinctions from a profuse array of environmental changes. Many acknowledge that climate deniers are fed propagated ignorance by fossil fuel strategists as part of a misinformation campaign, creating a set of beliefs not easily changed. It creates a polarized electorate, leaving the issue to develop worst-case scenarios before action is taken. In moderation, fossil fuel usage might not have posed a serious threat, but we have moved well past that threshold. Our burning of fossil fuels produces around 33.4 billion metric tons of CO2 per year and world energy needs are expected to rise about 40 percent over the next 20 years. CO2 has reached proportions in our atmosphere not seen for about 15 million years and many scientists warn it may already be too late to mitigate damages. There is a way forward. In time, renewables can generate jobs lost in the fossil fuels industry and will sustain our lifestyles. We can consider Generation IV nuclear energy, reportedly much safer than existing technology. Some strategists look to a carbon fee and dividend system that can increase the viability of new renewable energy sources, as well as a carbon import tax on products from other countries. As Keystone falters and tar sands mining provokes mounting protests, our nation is compelled to end political bickering and accede Millennials a more powerful voice on climate legislation. President Obama must grasp the significance of this moment, deny the Keystone permit and tell the world his decision has nothing to do with the pipeline and everything to do with leadership. This opinion piece was written by Jeffrey Meyer, a writer and volunteer for 350.org and Citizens Climate Lobby.
  19. A big helium-filled wind-turbine will soon float just south over the city of Fairbanks in Alaska, USA. The floating wind turbine, which is designed and built by Altaeros Energies, will hover at nearly 305 meters up in the sky and generate electricity for more than a dozen families living off the grid. Airborne wind turbines is nothing new. We wrote about similar wind power technology as early as 2008 with the MARS prototype from Magenn. But this will be the first long-term demonstration of an airborne wind technology. The BAT-Buoyant Airborne Turbine will be in the sky for 18 months, with a total project cost of $1.3 million. Altaeros Energies hopes that BAT-Buoyant Airborne Turbine, and similar wind solutions, will play a role in tackling high energy costs in remote regions such as Alaska. “We are pleased to work with the Alaska Energy Authority and TDX Power to deploy our flexible, low cost power solution for remote communities,” stated Ben Glass, Altaeros Chief Executive Officer. “The project will generate enough energy to power over a dozen homes.” There are some obvious advantages with this type of wind turbines. They can be transported and setup in remote locations without the need for large cranes, towers or foundation works which are required for more traditional wind turbines. Despite its floating, kite like design, the airborne wind turbine is able to be used in harsh weather conditions. The wind turbine will also generate substantially less noise and requires very little maintenance. Besides electricity, it can also provide cell service, data coverage (i.e. Wi-Fi) and local weather data. Because of its high altitude, the BAT-Buoyant Airborne Turbine will be able to catch air currents that are five to eight times stronger than winds closer to the ground. It’s estimated the floating wind turbine design will generate twice the electricity output of its ground-based counterparts. The floating wind turbine will feed energy into the grid through cables that are connected to the ground.
  20. In a dramatic sign of growing opposition to construction of the Keystone XL pipeline, 398 students were arrested March 2 after they chained themselves to the White House fence. A network of students called XL Dissent organized the protest, part of a groundswell of calls upon President Obama to block approval of the pipeline, which will carry millions of gallons of crude oil from the tar sands region in Alberta, Canada, to refineries in the United States. "Obama was the first president I voted for, and I want real climate action and a rejection of the Keystone XL pipeline," Nick Stracco, a senior at Tulane University and one of the organizers of the protest, told the Huffington Post. "The people that voted him into office have made it absolutely clear what we want, and that's to reject Keystone XL." Over 1,000 students from some 80 campuses and 42 states gathered at Georgetown University and marched on the White House. The students, many dressed in mock hazmat suits, first stopped at the home of Secretary of State John Kerry, where they unfurled a giant black tarp to symbolize an oil spill. The State Department has issued a finding claiming that building the Keystone XL pipeline won't have a significant environmental impact. The State Department study was necessary because the pipeline crosses international borders and is required for federal approval. Kerry must sign off on the study. Once at the White House, students again unfurled a giant tarp and lay down on it to symbolize an oil spill. Students then tied themselves to the fence with plastic handcuffs and were arrested. "The youth really understand the traditional methods of creating change are not sufficient, so we needed to escalate," Aly Johnson-Kurts told Politico. Johnson was one of those arrested. "They say we are too young to make a difference, but we are proving them wrong, right here, right now," Earthguardians Youth Director Xiuhtezcatl Martinez told the cheering crowd. This was said to be the largest student civil disobedience action at the White House in a generation. Over 1,200 people of all ages were arrested in a similar protest organized by the environmental group 350.org at the White House in August 2011. "An entire movement has thrown itself into in this Keystone fight, from local frontline groups to big national green organizations," 350.org co-founder Bill McKibben wrote in an email to Huffington Post. "But this weekend shows the power and bravery of some of the most crucial elements: young people, and activists who understand the centrality of environmental justice." The Keystone XL pipeline is a project of TransCanada. Once constructed it will transport 830,000 barrels of tar sands crude oil, described as the "dirtiest oil," to its refining destination in the Gulf Coast. The pipeline would double the amount of tar sands crude oil entering the U.S. Environmentalists are warning that burning this dirty oil will increase greenhouse gas emissions exponentially at a time when they must be reduced to stem the climate crisis. They also warn of vast ecological decimation due to extraction from the tar sands and massive oil spills over delicate aquifers and waterways. In one of the largest spills in U.S. history, one million gallons of oil gushed into Talmadge Creek and Kalamazoo River in Michigan in 2010 and it still hasn't been fully cleaned up. Activists from the Michigan Coalition Against Tar Sands also participated. Three activists were arrested last year trying to block construction of the pipeline by Enbridge Inc., which will also carry tar sands crude oil through the state. They face two to three years in jail if convicted. Battles have also erupted in Detroit and Chicago over petcoke dumping. Petcoke is a byproduct of the refining process, which many believe is contributing to increases in cancer rates and other health issues. Also participating in the demonstration were activists from the Indigenous community including Jasmine Thomas from Saik'uz First Nation in British Columbia. Over 50 First Nation communities that will be impacted along the route of the pipeline are offering some of the fiercest resistance to construction. "Even President Obama has admitted the jobs created are temporary and very few," American University student Deirdre Shelly said in an interview on Democracy Now! "There's no reason why those jobs have to be in dirty and expensive oil. America is ready for a clean, green economy and we can begin by saying no to this dirty pipeline," said Shelly. In another protest, nine students were arrested when they sat in at the State Department building in San Francisco on March 3. XL Dissent organizers vowed the protests and acts of civil disobedience would continue. Website 350.org has signed up over 70,000 people to commit civil disobedience against the pipeline. Many more actions are expected over the next few months. This article was first published in People's World by John Bachtell.
  21. Since last year, California has been plagued by drought, with Los Angeles in particular having its driest year on record in 2013. Angelenos only saw reprieve in early March, when heavy rainfall finally arrived there. Now, scientists are warning that an even more dire situation is on the way for the Golden State: a megadrought that could last for decades, affecting everything from wildlife to agriculture. And although the storm system that brought precipitation to LA is going to help combat the drought in the short-term, weather officials don't believe it will have a lasting effect. The drought, of course, is a product of climate change, and it stands to reason that the two will worsen simultaneously. Lisa Sloan, professor of Earth sciences at UC Santa Cruz, and author of a report on the issue, explained that the California drought is largely owed to the global warming-induced melting of Arctic ice. Jacob Sewall, a graduate student who co-published the report, remarked, "Where the sea ice is reduced, heat transfer from the ocean warms the atmosphere, resulting in a rising column of relatively warm air." Sloan added, "And this will only get worse, with Arctic sea ice diminishing quickly. In fact, I think the actual situation in the next few decades could be even more dire than our study suggested." Climate change blogger and founding editor of Climate Progress Joseph Romm said that droughts in the western U.S. on the whole will increase in intensity and frequency as weather patterns change. He explained, "Precipitation patterns are expected to shift, expanding the dry subtropics. What precipitation there is will come in extreme deluges, resulting in runoff rather than drought alleviation. Warming causes greater evaporation and, once the ground is dry, the sun's energy goes into baking the soil, leading to a further increase in air temperature." Lynn Ingram, a paleoclimatologist from the University of California Berkeley, said that megadroughts - those lasting for more than 100 years - have occurred in the past and could return. "If we go back several thousand years," she said, "we've seen that droughts can last over a decade - and in some cases, over a century. We can expect that this will happen again. California should be prepared for an eventual dry period" of that magnitude. Should this happen, it would create an increasingly desperate set of circumstances for Californians, who live in one of the largest agricultural regions in the world. The effects such a drought would have on crops would be disastrous. As a result, the cost of fruits and vegetables alone would soar, thus making it an economic issue as well. Celeste Cantu, general manager for the Santa Ana Watershed Project Authority, said California should start preparing for this now. "There will be cataclysmic impacts. We would need to import water" to some 4.5 million southern Californians, especially ranchers and farmers. According to paleoclimatologist Edward Cook, "the current drought" in the southwestern U.S. overall "could be classified as a megadrought - 13 years running." He pointed out that two prior megadroughts have occurred in the Sierra Nevada of California, each last between 100 and 200 years. If the worst-case scenario comes to fruition, the state's current dry period could last just as long. "There's no indication it'll be getting any better in the near term," he concluded. This article was first published in People's World by Blake Deppe.
  22. Documents leaked by whistleblower Edward Snowden, and published by the Huffington Post and the Danish newspaper Information, shows that the NSA spied on the talks at the UN climate summit in Copenhagen in 2009.   "The Obama administration clearly never wanted Copenhagen talks to work," says Bill McKibben following latest NSA revelations concerning climate talks.   Read it: 'Insane, Disgusting' and 'Epic Treachery': NSA Spied on Climate Talks
  23. The 'polar vortex' and severe cold weather don't mean climate change isn't happening, writes Yarrow Axford.   "Climate change is a painstakingly well-documented long-term global trend, in which each recent decade has been warmer than the decade before. This is generally true for most parts of the globe, but more importantly is true when one considers the Earth as a whole. [...] Despite the overwhelming evidence that our planet is warming, there are two points of perpetual confusion that combine with our psychology to make winter weather a seasonal boon for climate skepticism. For one, a cold snap where we live should not be confused for a global event."   Read it: No, Global Warming Isn't Suddenly a Myth Because It's Really Cold Out
  24. Only a day after legislators and hundreds of farmers from parched districts in Northern California and the Central Valley rallied on the steps of the Capitol in Sacramento, Jerry Brown, Governor of California, made an emergency declaration. "We are in an unprecedented, very serious situation," Brown said while calling on Californians to cut their water consumption by 20%. The now three-year long drought has forced cities to cut water use and may leave farmers no choice but to stop planting some crops.    Read the article: Governor declares drought emergency in California
  25. Believe it or not, winters have been warming rapidly in the majority of the continental 48 states since 1970. And, take note Chicago and other Midwest readers: The coldest states are warming the fastest. So says a 2013 report by Climate Central. In fact, says science writer Andrew Zimmerman, if the climate had not warmed so much during the past few decades, it's possible that the current freezer-like weather would be even colder in those areas. Yikes! Meanwhile, there have been above-average temperatures across parts of the Arctic, Scandinavia, Europe and Asia this past week, Zimmerman reports. Last month, the northern Alaska coastline, above the Arctic Circle, had the warmest temperatures on record in at least 70 years. It's part of an overall trend of warming in the Arctic area. But yes, brrrrr, every state in the continental U.S. has had sub-freezing temperatures this week. It's attributed to the behavior of the "polar vortex." The polar vortex (also known as a polar cyclone) is a large swirl of very cold air that sits over the polar regions year round. It intensifies in the winter and weakens in the summer. The jet stream from the Arctic polar vortex sometimes brings extremely cold weather southward into Europe, Asia and the U.S. According AccuWeather.com, cold outbreaks like the one this week occur "on average once every 10 years. The last far-reaching, bitterly cold blasts occurred in the mid-1990s, during February of 1996 and January of 1994." AccuWeather Senior Meteorologist Brett Anderson said, "We were overdue for a large Arctic outbreak of this intensity." This time the polar vortex has spread unusually far south into the U.S., giving us the record frigid conditions we've been experiencing. Is global climate change a factor in this unusual intrusion of the polar vortex? Some scientists say yes; others say the jury is still out. Scientific studies have tied abnormally cold temperatures in the U.S. and Europe to warmer than usual conditions in the Arctic - they dub this the "Warm Arctic/Cold Continents Pattern." This could be driven by the loss of polar sea ice which has been documented over the past few decades. That in turn is spurred by human-caused global warming. Research is ongoing. "The research linking climate change impacts in the Arctic to more extreme jet stream patterns is still very new, and we need several more years of data and additional research before we can be confident that this is occurring," writes Weather Underground scientist Jeff Masters. "But if the new research is correct, the crazy winter weather we've been seeing since 2009 may be the new normal in a world with rapid warming occurring in the Arctic." But one thing is sure, scientist agree: cold weather does not contradict the well-established fact that the Earth has been warming overall due to human activity, in particular the massive use of oil, coal and other fossil fuels. The consequences of this, scientists say, include more extreme weather of all kinds. For a break from the cold, you might want to consider a trip Down Under. Australia has experienced record-breaking scorching hot weather this past year. It's been so hot that mapmakers have had to add a new color to temperature maps to signify the blistering heat there. Australia's winter, which is during our summer months, was "only" the third hottest on record. But its spring temperatures, starting in September, were the hottest ever. January 2014 is starting off with similar heat extremes. Walgett, in New South Wales, recorded 120 degrees Fahrenheit, the second hottest temperature ever measured in the state. One of the reasons for Australia's record heat in 2013 was very high ocean surface temperatures, the third warmest on record according to preliminary data. If you are not up for a trip to Australia, not to worry. The record cold in the U.S. will be ending this week, weather forecasters say. Temperatures are predicted to be up to 50 in places like New York and St. Louis. This article was first published in People's World by Susan Webb.