April 2012

Record Tracker April 4, 2012 : 1:51 PM

Climate Central recently created an interactive tool to track temperature records across the United States – weather station by weather station:

"The U.S. just experienced an epic heat wave, and it's hard to process the raw numbers — more than 7,000 daily high temperatures broken or tied, and a nearly equal number of warm overnight low temperature records set or tied."

"This interactive map draws on the National Climatic Data Center's database. You can explore the records state-by-state, weather station-by-weather station. For the most impressive view, zoom out to see the U.S. as a whole, and click "play month" for the month of March. You'll note a surge of warm temperature records start moving across the country, starting on aboutMarch 12 and lasting for more than a week in some spots."

See the tool for yourself by clicking here.


71% Decrease April 5, 2012 : 5:27 PM

Ice cover on the Great Lakes is vanishing:

“Ice cover on North America’s Great Lakes–Superior, Michigan, Huron, Ontario, and Erie–has declined 71% since 1973, says a new study published in the Journal of Climate by researchers at NOAA’s Great Lakes Environmental Research Laboratory.”

"The biggest loser of ice during the 1973 – 2010 time period was Lake Ontario, which saw an 88% decline in ice cover. During the same time period, Superior lost 79% of its ice, Michigan lost 77%, Huron lost 62%, and Erie lost 50%. The loss of ice is due to warming of the lake waters. Winter air temperatures over the lower Great Lake increased by about 2.7°F (1.5°C) from 1973 – 2010, and by 4 – 5°F (2.3 – 2.7°C) over the northern Lakes, including Lake Superior. Lake Superior’s summer surface water temperature warmed 4.5°F (2.5°C) over the period 1979 – 2006 (Austin and Colman 2007)."

Source: Climate Progress


A Republican Meteorologist Speaks Out April 6, 2012 : 2:13 PM

Paul Douglas, a Republican meteorologist, speaks out on the climate crisis:

“I'm going to tell you something that my Republican friends are loath to admit out loud: climate change is real. I'm a moderate Republican, fiscally conservative; a fan of small government, accountability, self-empowerment and sound science. I am not a climate scientist. I'm a Penn State meteorologist, and the weather maps I'm staring at are making me very uncomfortable. No, you're not imagining it: we've clicked into a new and almost foreign weather pattern. To complicate matters I'm in a small, frustrated and endangered minority: a Republican deeply concerned about the environmental sacrifices some are asking us to make to keep our economy powered-up. It's ironic. The root of the word conservative is "conserve". A staunch Republican, Teddy Roosevelt, set aside vast swaths of America for our National Parks System, the envy of the world. Another Republican, Richard Nixon, launched the EPA. Now some in my party believe the EPA and all those silly "global warming alarmists" are going to get in the way of drilling and mining our way to prosperity. Well, we have goodreason to be alarmed.”

Read the rest of Paul Douglas’s post by clicking here.

Source: Huffington Post


Sustainable Agriculture April 7, 2012 : 4:57 PM

A new report for the UK discusses the need to develop sustainable agriculture:

"Farming must intensify sustainably, cut waste and reduce greenhouse gas emissions from farms, it says."

"The Commission on Sustainable Agriculture and Climate Change spent more than a year assessing evidence from scientists and policymakers."

"Its final report was released at the Planet Under Pressure conference."

"The commission was chaired by Prof Sir John Beddington, the UK government's chief scientific adviser."

"If you're going to generate enough food both to address the poverty of a billion people not getting enough food, with another billion [in the global population] in 13 years' time, you've got to massively increase agriculture," Sir John told BBC News.

"You can't do it using the same agricultural techniques we've used before, because that would seriously increase greenhouse gas emissions for the whole world,with climate change knock-ons."

Source: BBC


The Greatest Challenge of Our Species April 10, 2012 : 4:11 PM

A great Op-Ed from Tom Lovejoy in The New York Times:

“In a cavernous London conference center so devoid of life as to seem a film set for “The Matrix,” 3,000 scientists, officials and members of civil society organizations met in the last week of March to consider the state of the planet and what to do about it.”

“The Planet Under Pressure conference is intended to feed directly into the “Rio+20” United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development this coming June, 20 years after the Earth Summit in Rio convened the largest number ever of heads of state and produced, among other things, two international conventions, one for climate change and the other for biological diversity.”

“While it is not as if nothing has been achieved in the interim or that scientific understanding has stood still, it is obvious that new science is not needed to conclude that humanity has failed to act at the scale and with the urgency needed.”


Ready or Not? April 11, 2012 : 4:31 PM

A great new tool from the NRDC:

"As climate change affects communities across the U.S., some states are leading the way in preparing for the impacts on water resources. These states are reducing carbon pollution and planning for climate change impacts. Yet many states are not acting and remain woefully unprepared."

See the tool and “Click on a state to find out what risks communities there may face and what the state is doing to prepare.”


85% April 12, 2012 : 3:51 PM

The Larsen B Ice Shelf has shrunk by more than 85%:

"A vast ice shelf in the Antarctic peninsula, a hotspot for global warming, has shrunk by 85 percent in 17 years, the European Space Agency (ESA) said on Thursday."

"Images taken by its Envisat satellite show that the so-called Larsen B ice shelf decreased from 11,512 square kilometres (4,373 square miles) in 1995, an area about the size of the Gulf state of Qatar, to only 1,670 sq km (634 miles) today."

"Larsen B is one of three ice shelves that run from north to south along the eastern side of the peninsula, the tongue of land that projects towards South America."

Source: AFP


Climate Change Causes Lyme Disease April 13, 2012 : 4:12 PM

A warmer climate is contributing to the spread of Lyme Disease:

“A quarter of all Lyme disease cases are among children. At highest risk: kids ages 5 to 14, who are more likely to play outdoors and close to the ground, where ticks are ready to pounce. Darren recently launched an online chat room catering to this group. Every Friday night at 8 p.m. Central, he now talks online with nearly a dozen newfriends who log on from as far away as Kentucky and Australia, all living with Lyme.”

“Overall numbers are on the rise, too. From 2005 to 2010, the number of Wisconsinites contracting Lyme each year jumped from 26 to 44 of every 100,000 people. Around 15,000 casesnationwide were reported to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in the mid-1990s. That number is now 30,000 to 40,000, although the CDC admits it could be as much as 12 times higher.”

“Lyme is just one of a lengthening list of emerging infectious diseases that are soaring in North America. Experts say that increasing temperatures and altered precipitationpatterns that accompany climate change are already playing at least a partial role in the spread and intensity of zoonoses -- infectious agents that begin in animals and account for an estimated 75 percent of all newly emerging diseases. Cases of West Nile virus reported to the CDC, for example, rose from 21 in 2000 -- a year after its arrival in New York City -- to more than 1,000 in 2010.”

“Like Lyme disease, most zoonoses require an intermediary tick, mosquito or other insect to transfer the virus or bacterium from an animal to a human. Because insects are cold-blooded, they are highly sensitive to outside conditions: A few degrees or inches ofrain can significantly enhance their ability to survive, reproduce and effectively pass on a parasite.”

Source Huffington Post


Crippling New York April 17, 2012 : 1:50 PM

The effects of the climate crisis could cripple transportation in New York:

“By mid-century, global warming-related sea level rise is expected to render these levees ineffective against even relatively weak storms, according to a 2011climate assessment and supported by Climate Central's report on coastal flooding. And the predicament facing La Guardia is far from unique. All three of the city's major airports are situated along the ocean and face similar sea level rise-related risks.”

“But it's not just the city's airports at risk. As 106 million passengers per year funnel through the terminals, collecting their luggage, they'll head into New York via taxis, trains, cars and buses - another network of transportation that is at considerable risk of flooding from the combination of sea level rise and storm surges.”

“As sea level increases in response to manmade global warming, the 100-year storm is turning into a far more common event, and climate change adaptation is taking on a heightened sense of urgency throughout the transportation sector. The challenges are particularly acute in the New York City area, where mass transit moves more than 8 million people every day, 24/7, into and out of a city with 520 miles of waterfront.”

Source: Climate Central


Faith and the Climate Crisis April 19, 2012 : 9:34 PM

Bill McKibben writes at the Huffington Post:

"There are lots of types of people who have been taking action on climate change over the last several years: environmentalists (of course), students and young people, community-based groups, labor activists, indigenous peoples, Appalachian and Gulf Coast residents, ranchers and more. Among them, importantly, have beenpeople from the many different denominations that make up the broad religious community in the United States."

"It was personally inspiring to me when several dozen people of faith took action last August, getting arrested at the White House protesting the Keystone XL pipeline. And it is inspiring that some of those people, as well as many more, have joined together to organize five days of faith-based activities calling for action on climate change in Washington, D.C. April 22 to 26. The Interfaith Moral Action on Climate Change is playing a key role in organizing and connecting these activities."

Read more of Bill’s post by clicking here.


Fracking: A Risk to Home Owners April 20, 2012 : 6:21 PM

Mortgage lenders believe fracking is a risk to homeowners:

“When Rolling Stone wrote about the big fracking bubble, they drew comparisons to the false accounting practices that drove the recent financial crisis. But the links to financial trouble may be as real as they are metaphorical, as the State Employees Credit Union, one of North Carolina's major mortgage lenders, has just announced that fracking can represent a very real mortgage risk:”

“The standard Fannie Mae/Freddie Mac Deed of Trust document recorded for most real estate liens prohibits the homeowner from selling or transferring any part of the property during the term of the loan without obtaining prior written approval from an official of the financial institution holding the mortgage. This includes the oil, gas and minerals found on the property.”

Source: TreeHugger.com


Reflections on Earth Day April 21, 2012 : 9:57 AM

In 1994, I was asked by Rachel Carson’s publisher to write the introduction for the 30th anniversary edition of Silent Spring. It was, of course, a privilege and honor. Here is part of what I wrote:

"Writing about Silent Spring is a humbling experience for an elected official,because Rachel Carson’s landmark book offers undeniable proof that the power of an idea can be far greater than the power of politicians. In 1962, when Silent Spring was first published, “environment” was not even an entry in the vocabulary of public policy. In a few cities especially Los Angeles, smog had become a cause of concern, albeit more because of its appearance than because of its threat to public health.Conservation—the precursor of environmentalism — had been mentioned during the 1960 Democratic and Republican conventions, but only in passing and almost entirely in the context of national parks and natural resources. And except for a few scattered entries in largely inaccessible scientific journals, there was virtually no public dialogue about the growing, invisibly dangers of DDT and other pesticides and chemicals. Silent Spring came as a cry in the wilderness, a deeply felt, thoroughly researched, and brilliantly written argument that changed the course of history. Without this book, the environmental movement might have been longdelayed or never have developed at all."

On this Earth Day, which comes nearly fifty years since the first printing of Silent Spring, Carson’s work continues to stand as a testament to the power of conscience, insight and our collective ability to make the world a better place. Carson’s conclusions inspired a generation to realize that human beings do not live in isolation, but as part of something much bigger. As she so eloquently stated in her masterwork, “in nature nothing exists alone.”

Nothing demonstrates the complexity of the natural world—and our ability to disturb it—like the climate crisis. Every day, we pump 90 million tons of global warming pollution into the atmosphere as if it were an open sewer. Already, we are experiencing many of the impacts scientists predicted decades ago—higher temperatures, more extreme weather, the emergence and re-emergence of infectious diseases, and rising sea levels. Scientists have warned us of the disturbingfuture we are creating for ourselves and our children and grandchildren. At stake is the survival of our civilization as we know it and the type of world we are going to leave as a legacy for those who follow us.

It is at times like these that people must come together, mobilize, and demand the change we need. This is a moral moment, a fork in the road. It is not ultimately about any scientific discussion or political dialogue but about who we are as human beings. It is about our capacity to transcend our own limitations and rise to this occasion. We have done so before. I have seen young people and their parents come together to create great change. In the 1960’s, the Civil Rights movement, led by young people but joined by people of all ages and backgrounds, helped tooverturn the legal oppression of African Americans and helped create a morejust society.

And, it was young people and social activists who helped to end apartheid in South Africa by supporting the divestment movement in the United States and around the world, which ultimately pressured the government to end legalized racism.

So on this Earth Day, I urge you to reflect on Silent Spring and to open your heart to Rachel Carson’s message. Allow it to inspire you to act. Feel the preciousness of our connection to our children and the solemnity of our obligation to safeguard their future and to protect the Earth we are bequeathing to them.


Out Like a Lion April 22, 2012 : 7:07 PM

15,000 heat records were set in March:

“It’s official. This was “the warmest March on record” since records began in 1895, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.”

“How hot was it? It was so hot that NOAA reports “there were 15,272 warm temperature records broken (7,755 daytime records, 7,517 nighttime records).”

Source: Climate Progress


Climate Gets Trumped April 23, 2012 : 6:30 PM

A new study from Media Matters showed how under reported the destruction of our climate is by major news networks:

“A Media Matters report released this week found that broadcast news coverage of climate change has dropped significantly since 2009, despite a series of key developments in climate science and politics.”

“Last year, ABC, CBS, NBC and FOX spent a total of only 47 minutes discussing climate change. The same networks spent more than twice as much time covering Donald Trump's presidential ambitions and his fruitless investigation into President Obama's birth certificate.”

See the full report by clicking here.


Mexico Passes Major Climate Legislation April 24, 2012 : 5:00 PM

Now our government needs to act:

"The Mexican legislature passed one of the strongest national climate-change laws so far on 19 April. Mexico, which ranks 11th in the world for both the size of its economy and its level of carbon emissions, joins the United Kingdom in having legally binding emissions goals aimed at stemming the effects of climate change."

"After three years of debate and revisions, the bill passed in Mexico’s lower house with a vote of 128 for and 10 against, and was later passed unanimously by the Senate. The new law contains many sweeping provisions to mitigate climate change, including a mandate to reduce emissions of carbon dioxide by 30% below business-as-usual levels by 2020, and by 50% below 2000 levels by 2050."

Source: Nature


Not Controversial April 25, 2012 : 5:16 PM

The Climate Reality blog points out no matter what deniers say, the existence of the climate crisis is not controversial:

“After the warmest March on record in the United States, even more people are starting to connect the dots between climate change and this weird weather. A new poll was released today which, according the New York Times, “shows that a large majority of Americans believe that this year’s unusually warm winter, last year’s blistering summer and some other weather disasters were probably made worse by global warming.”

“Here’s what the poll found: 69% of Americans believe that global warming is affecting the weather in the United States. A full 82% personally experienced extreme weather last year, and 35% were personally harmed by it.”

Read the entire post by clicking here.


World’s largest solar plant goes online April 27, 2012 : 7:02 PM

In India:

“The Indian state of Gujarat has built the world’s largest solar photovoltaic power plant, a field of solar panels the size of Lower Manhattan. After only 14 months of preparation, they’ve just switched it on, adding 600 MW of power to the grid. That’s enough to power a medium-sized city’s worth of homes.”

Source: Grist


World's largest solar plant goes online April 27, 2012 : 7:02 PM

In India:

“The Indian state of Gujarat has built the world’s largest solar photovoltaic power plant, a field of solar panels the size of Lower Manhattan. After only 14 months of preparation, they’ve just switched it on, adding 600 MW of power to the grid. That’s enough to power a medium-sized city’s worth of homes.”

Source: Grist


Women and the Climate Crisis April 30, 2012 : 9:34 PM

Maggie Fox writes at the Climate Reality Blog:

“Making up the majority of the world’s poor, women are uniquely impacted by climate change. Women in the developing world are most often responsible for food production and the collection of freshwater and firewood. They depend on various types of natural resources that are easily damaged by climate change, through extreme weather and sea level rise.”

“Rising sea levels in Bangladesh’s Bay of Bengal, for example, are flushing harmfully brackish waters into nearby agricultural fields and wells, resulting in crop production losses and decreased freshwater availability for Bangladeshi women. With climate change, as more water from Antarctica’s melting ice sheets flows to the sea, this problem is only expected to worsen.”

“But women aren’t just impacted by climate change; they’re also critical agents of change. As UNFCCC Executive Secretary Christiana Figueres explains: “We are 50% of the population around the world and we represent more than 50% of the solution.” I think former Irish President Mary Robinson also articulates a critical point: “Women understand the inter-generational aspects of climate change and sustainable development. We women think in time horizons that span the lives of our children and grandchildren.” And even beyond.”