May 2012

Fantastic Piece by Jason Mraz May 1, 2012 : 3:05 PM

In a post this weekend, Jason Mraz writes eloquently about how the climate crisis is not a future problem but "a now event." I encourage you to read the piece in its entirety. Below is just a short excerpt:

"Global warming is no longer a future problem. It's a now event. And it's not a planet problem either. It's a people problem. The rate at which we consume energy through land clearing, factory farming, and the burning of fossil fuels oil and coal, is wreaking havoc on the atmosphere, contributing to the overall, exaggerated warming of the planet. Our very creation of an industrialised system to make our lives convenient and sweet succeeded in the sweetness, but sadly isn't sustainable. The proof is all around us. A billion people live without water. More than that live in extreme poverty. War hasn't found its resolve. And the seasons are only getting stranger."

Source: Huffington Post UK

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Let's Just Say It Out Loud May 2, 2012 : 6:19 PM

Thomas Mann of the Brookings Institute and Norman Ornstein of the American Enterprise Institute have written a scathing attack on dysfunction in Washington. Their conclusion: “Republicans are the problem.”

“We have been studying Washington politics and Congress for more than 40 years, and neverhave we seen them this dysfunctional. In our past writings, we have criticized both parties when we believed it was warranted. Today, however, we have no choice but to acknowledge that the core of the problem lies with the Republican Party.”

“The GOP has become an insurgent outlier in American politics. It is ideologically extreme; scornful of compromise; unmoved by conventional understanding of facts, evidence and science; and dismissive of the legitimacy of its political opposition.”

“When one party moves this far from the mainstream, it makes it nearly impossible for the political system to deal constructively with the country’s challenges.”

Read their entire column by clicking here.

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South Korea Passes Historic Climate Legislation May 3, 2012 : 9:51 AM

Joining the European Union, New Zealand, Australia, South Africa, China, and Mexico, the South Korean Parliament has approved a plan to cut industrial carbon pollution in an effort to combat the climate crisis. From Bloomberg:

"South Korea approved a cap-and-trade system to cut carbon emissions as President Lee Myung Bak seeks support from factories and power plants in the fastest-growing producer of greenhouse gases among industrialized democracies."

"The National Assembly passed a bill to establish a cap-and- trade system in the country by 2015 with the backing of both ruling and opposition parties, according to the assembly’s webcast of the main session today."

“The bill is needed to cope with global climate change and, domestically to reduce emissions of greenhouse gas efficiently,” Kim Jae Kyung, a member of the ruling New Frontier Party, said in the assembly’s plenary session before voting. The bill was passed in a 148-0 vote, with 3 abstentions."

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A Disgusting Campaign May 8, 2012 : 1:17 PM

The climate denial group Heartland Institute has launched a disgusting campaign. Joe Romm reports:

“The right-wing Heartland Institute launched an “experiment” Friday, comparing believers in climate change to infamous figures such as Ted Kaczynski (the Unabomber), Charles Manson, and Osama bin Laden. After 24 hours, the group pulled down its Chicago billboard but made no attempt to apologize for or retract its stunt.”

“Even worse, the image of the billboard is still on their website along with some of the most extremist hate-speech ever seen from a global warming denial group — including this absurd assertion, “the most prominent advocates of global warming aren’t scientists. They are murderers, tyrants, and madmen.”

"Now, Heartland is seeing the fall-out: After the latest outcry, the leading drink company Diageo, which owns brands like Smirnoff, Guinness, and Johnnie Walker, told The Guardian it will end its ties to Heartland."

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Game Over for Climate May 10, 2012 : 12:40 PM

In an excellent op ed published in today's New York Times, Dr. Jim Hansen lays out the Reality of the climate crisis:

"Canada’s tar sands, deposits of sand saturated with bitumen, contain twice the amount of carbon dioxide emitted by global oil use in our entire history. If we were to fully exploit this new oil source, and continue to burn our conventional oil, gas and coal supplies, concentrations of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere eventually would reach levels higher than in the Pliocene era, more than 2.5 million years ago, when sea level was at least 50 feet higher than it is now. That level of heat-trapping gases would assure that the disintegration of the ice sheets would accelerate out of control. Sea levels would rise and destroy coastal cities. Global temperatures would become intolerable. Twenty to 50 percent of the planet’s species would be driven to extinction. Civilization would be at risk."

"That is the long-term outlook. But near-term, things will be bad enough. Over the next several decades, the Western United States and the semi-arid region from North Dakota to Texas will develop semi-permanent drought, with rain, when it does come, occurring in extreme events with heavy flooding. Economic losses would be incalculable. More and more of the Midwest would be a dust bowl. California’s Central Valley could no longer be irrigated. Food prices would rise to unprecedented levels."

"If this sounds apocalyptic, it is. This is why we need to reduce emissions dramatically. President Obama has the power not only to deny tar sands oil additional access to Gulf Coast refining, which Canada desires in part for export markets, but also to encourage economic incentives to leave tar sands and other dirty fuels in the ground."

"The global warming signal is now louder than the noise of random weather, as I predicted would happen by now in the journal Science in 1981. Extremely hot summers have increased noticeably. We can say with high confidence that the recent heat waves in Texas and Russia, and the one in Europe in 2003, which killed tens of thousands, were not natural events — they were caused by human-induced climate change."

I encourage you to read the entire piece at: http://www.nytimes.com/2012/05/10/opinion/game-over-for-the-climate.html

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Climate and Allergies May 11, 2012 : 9:26 AM

Climate change could make your allergies worse:

“Watery eyes, runny noses and puffy faces will abound this year as a warm winter, human development and climate change converge to create a brutal allergy season that will likely get worse for years to come, according to experts.”

“Plants like ragweed are in pollen overdrive from very favorable weather, while stinging insects like yellow jackets and hornets are findings new homes farther north. More people are becoming susceptible to allergies over time as pollen seasons are getting longer.”

Source: E&E

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The Damage May 13, 2012 : 5:43 PM

The Associated Press has assembled an incredible timeline demonstrating how flooding in Thailand has impacted the tech industry. It begins with:

“Oct. 12, 2011: Seagate Technology PLC, which makes hard drives, says its factories in Thailand have been operational, but it may have difficulty making hard drives because of constraints in getting parts.”

“Oct. 17: Computer hard drive maker Western Digital Corp. says flooding damage to its Thailand locations will have a significant impact on its operations and its ability to meet customer demand the rest of the year.”

“Oct. 18: Apple Inc. CEO Tim Cook says he is "virtually certain there will be an overall industry shortage of disk drives." Cook warns that Apple's Mac lines will be most affected.”

“Oct. 19: Data storage equipment maker Emulex Corp. says a subcontracted manufacturing facility in Ayudhaya has suspended operations due to flooding.”

Read the full timeline by clicking here.

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Under Threat May 15, 2012 : 6:08 PM

Another Antarctic Ice Shelf could disappear, raising global sea levels:

“Scientists are predicting the disappearance of another vast ice shelf in Antarctica by the end of the century that will accelerate rising sea levels.”

“A review of decades of satellite data has found West Antarctic ice shelves are increasingly tearing away from stabilizing bay walls.”

“The Filchner-Ronne Ice Shelf fringing the Weddell Sea on the eastern side of Antarctica has so far not seen ice loss from global warming and much of theobservation of melting has focused on the western side of the continent around the Amundsen Sea. But new research from the Alfred Wegener Institute for Polar and Marine Research in Germany says the 450,000-sq-km ice shelf is under threat.”

"According to our calculations, this protective barrier will disintegrate by the end of this century," said Dr Harmut Hellmer, lead author of the study, published in the journal Nature this week.”

Source: Christian Science Monitor

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Support the EPA May 17, 2012 : 4:01 PM

The Climate Reality Project is asking members to sign a letter to President Obama supporting the EPA’s Carbon Pollution Standards:

"Dear President Obama,"

"I support the EPA’s historic and courageous Carbon Pollution Standards — a move that would limit for the first time the carbon output from new power plants."

"Carbon pollution is already altering our climate. The time for action is now. This rule is a crucial step toward limiting dangerous emissions and solving the climate crisis."

"I applaud your efforts in this regard and urge you to finalize strong rules regulating new and existing sources of carbon pollution."

Sign the petition by clicking here.

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Another Record May 18, 2012 : 2:10 PM

According to the Washington Post's Capitol Weather Gang:

“As far back as records go (1895), never has the U.S. strung together 12 straight months warmer than May 2011 to April 2012 according to new data released today by NOAA’s National Climatic Data Center (NCDC).”

“The record-setting 12-month period edged out November 1999-October 2000, the 2nd warmest 12-month period, by 0.1°F. The average temperature was 2.8 degrees F above the 20th century average.”

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Vermont Bans Fracking May 21, 2012 : 5:58 PM

Vermont took a huge step banning hydraulic fracturing. Hopefully more states will follows its lead:

“Vermont Gov. Peter Shumlin on Wednesday signed into law the nation's first ban on a hotly debated natural gas drilling technique that involves blasting chemical-laced water deep into the ground.”

“The Democrat, surrounded at a Statehouse ceremony by environmentalists and Twinfield Union School students who pushed for the ban, said the law may help Vermont set an example for other states. The ban may be largely symbolic, though, because there is believed to be little to no natural gas or oil beneath the surface in Vermont.”

“The gas drilling technique, called hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, involves the high-pressure injection of water and chemicals into the ground to split rock apart and release natural gas or oil.”

Source: Associated Press

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326th in a Row May 23, 2012 : 7:44 PM

April was the 326th month in a row the global temperature was above average when compared with the 20th century:

“The last time the globe had a month that averaged below the 20th Century normal was February 1985. April makes it 326 months in a row. Nearly half the population of the world has never seen a month that was cooler than normal, according to United Nations data.”

Source: Associated Press

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Arctic Death Spiral May 25, 2012 : 2:47 PM

Climate Central paints a scary picture:

“That's the simple version of the story, but things look even worse when you dig into the details. For one thing, all that open water does re-freeze each winter, but it freezes into a relatively thin layer known as seasonal, or first-year ice. Because it's so thin, first-year ice tends to melt back quickly the following season, giving the ocean a chance to warm things up even more in what National Snow and Ice Data Center director Mark Serreze has called a "death spiral" that could lead to ice-free Arctic summers by 2030.”

“But it's worse than that, says a new analysis by scientists at the U.S. Army's Cold Regions Research Laboratory in Hanover, N.H. "First-year ice is not just thinner, " said Donald Perovich, lead author of a report in Geophysical Research Letters, in an interview. "We're also beginning to realize it has other properties." The most important: new ice is less reflective than old ice, for most of the year, anyway. It absorbs more heat from the Sun, which means it doesn't just melt faster: it actually speeds up its own melting.”

“Here's how it happens, according to Perovich. "Most of the precipitation in the Arctic," he said, "happens at the end of summer and in the early fall." When the snow first begins to fall, it builds on the multi-year ice, but disappears onto the patches of open ocean. Those patches eventually freeze, and the snow sticks there as well; it just forms a thinner layer. So for most of the winter, all of the ice, thick and thin, is covered with a brightly reflective blanket. That would be good as far as warming is concerned, except that for most of the winter, the Sun doesn't rise.”

“When the Sun finally does rise in spring, it melts the thinner snow first, forming heat-absorbing pools on the surface of the first-year ice. The older ice eventually catches up, forming pools of its own, but since the surface is crumpled, the ponds don't spread as widely, and they absorb less heat.”

“In short, the death spiral -- where more melting leads to more melting -- appears to be even steeper than anyone thought.”

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Drought May 26, 2012 : 6:17 PM

Most of the continental United States is experiencing drought:

“In addition to the West, drought conditions are also prevalent in the Southeast, Mid-Atlantic, and parts of the Northeast as well, along with a small pocket in the Upper Midwest. In all, 56 percent of the Lower 48 states were experiencing drought conditions as of May 8, almost twice the area compared to last year at this time, according to data from the U.S. Drought Monitor.”

Source: Climate Central

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Mining on Public Land is Not Worth It May 30, 2012 : 11:07 PM

From Current's Weekly Planet:

"How much does a ton of coal cost? Go ahead take a guess."

"If you said this is a trick question then you're right. The price of coal is different all over the world. In China, the world's largest coal consumer, the cost of a ton of coal averaged to $97.28 in 2011. Over the past few months in the U.S., the price of coal has ranged from $8.15 to $60.90."

"The reason for the low cost of coal in the U.S. is low demand. The U.S. Energy Information Administration expects electricity produced by coal power plants to drop by 14 percent in 2012. Utilities are switching to cheaper natural gas and the Environmental Protection Agency has started to crack down on old, pollutingcoal plants."

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