Tag Archives: climate & energy

British Columbia is having its worst wildfire season in recorded history.

That’s all kinds of scary. If there’s one place on Earth that would be the worst possible spot for a giant volcanic chain, it’s beneath West Antarctica. Turns out, it’s not a great situation to have a bunch of volcanoes underneath a huge ice sheet.

In a discovery announced earlier this week, a team of researchers discovered dozens of them across a 2,200-mile swath of the frozen continent. Antarctica, if you’re listening, please stop scaring us.

The study that led to the discovery was conceived of by an undergraduate student at the University of Edinburgh, Max Van Wyk de Vries. With a team of researchers, he used radar to look under the ice for evidence of cone-shaped mountains that had disturbed the ice around them. They found 91 previously unknown volcanoes. “We were amazed,” Robert Bingham, one of the study’s authors, told the Guardian.

The worry is that, as in Iceland and Alaska, two regions of active volcanism that were ice-covered until relatively recently, a warming climate could help these Antarctic volcanoes spring to life soon. In a worst-case scenario, the melting ice could release pressure on the volcanoes and trigger eruptions, further destabilizing the ice sheet.

“The big question is: how active are these volcanoes? That is something we need to determine as quickly as possible,” Bingham said.

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British Columbia is having its worst wildfire season in recorded history.

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The European Union is considering an electric car mandate.

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The European Union is considering an electric car mandate.

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Meet July, the hottest month yet

Our planet has never been warmer than it was last month, according to data released by NASA on Tuesday.

Yes, you’ve heard some version of that story before, and you’re sure to hear it again and again in the coming years, but this time, it’s a bit freaky.

The news that July was the hottest month on record comes as a relative surprise, because there hasn’t even been an El Niño this year — the natural climate shift that usually boosts global temperatures. In fact, 2017 started with La Niña conditions, which tend to temporarily cool the planet, yet we still wound up with a record anyway. That’s shocking, as well as compelling evidence that anthropogenic climate change is picking up speed.

Using measurements collected from about 6,300 land- and ocean-based weather stations around the world, NASA scientists calculated that the planet’s average temperature during July was about 2.25 degrees C (4.05 degrees F) warmer than the long-term annual average.

NASA/GISS/GISTEMP

Technically, July 2017 now shares the record in a statistical tie with July 2016 and August 2016 in NASA’s 137-year temperature record — all three are within the margin of error. July and August of 2016 had a bit of extra help from an El Niño, and last month achieved the mark all on its own. According to Gavin Schmidt, the NASA climate scientist who helps oversee the dataset, these three months are now “way ahead of the rest.” In a Twitter post, Schmidt predicted that 2017 will easily rank as one of the three warmest overall years on record, but probably won’t top 2016 as the warmest single year in history.

Such a warm month during the peak of the Northern Hemisphere’s summer created a cascade of extreme weather conditions. In western Canada, the worst forest fires in nearly 60 years have already torched upwards of a million acres, more than four times what normally burns in an entire wildfire season. In California, Death Valley recorded the hottest month ever measured anywhere on Earth, with an average temperature of 107.24 degrees F. Several days topped 120 degrees.

In Alaska, some cities recorded their warmest month in history, in part because of the early retreat of sea ice in the Arctic Ocean.

“There’s basically now no sea ice left within 200 miles of Alaska,” the National Weather Service’s Rick Thoman told Climate Central. At the start of the month, the volume of sea ice across the Arctic was the lowest ever measured.

In Europe, a persistent heatwave earned the name “Lucifer.” Spain recorded its hottest July day ever, with temperatures reaching 109 degrees F, and a drought in Italy prompted widespread water rationing. On its hottest day in history, Shanghai, China, saw a spike in fights and traffic accidents that the state-run media blamed on the heat. Temperatures exceeding 120 degrees F in Saudi Arabia prompted one engineer to invent an air-conditioned umbrella.

This is climate change in action. Rising temperatures are the best-predicted consequence of more greenhouse gas emissions. A recent study showed that 82 percent of locally record-hot days worldwide can be linked to climate change, but on the bigger, planetary scale, the evidence is even clearer: The most recent global assessment of climate science said that human-caused warming is now “unequivocal.”

All of this is evidence that our relationship with the planet is entering a new and dangerous phase. The good news is that, because we’re causing the shift, there are still things we can do to turn it around. But on our current pace — the fastest warming in at least 1,000 years — we’re quickly leaving the cozy climate that gave rise to human civilization.

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Meet July, the hottest month yet

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More bad news for the coal industry with layoffs in Mississippi.

According to a new study from the nonprofit Environmental Integrity Project, the current presidential administration has collected fewer civil penalties and filed fewer environmental enforcement suits against polluting companies than the Obama, Clinton, and George W. Bush administrations did at the same point in office.

The analysis assesses agreements made in the Environmental Protection Agency’s civil enforcement cases. For abuses under laws like the Clean Air Act, the Trump administration has collected just $12 million in civil penalties, a drop of 60 percent from the average of the other administrations. Trump’s EPA has lodged 26 environmental lawsuits compared to 31, 34, and 45 by Bush, Obama, and Clinton, respectively.

The marked decrease in enforcement likely has to do with the EPA’s deregulatory agenda. Since confirmed, administrator Scott Pruitt has systematically tried to knock out key environmental regulations, especially those created during Obama’s tenure.

The Project notes that its assessment is only of a six-month period, so future enforcement could catch Trump up to his predecessors. Or he’ll continue to look the other way.

“I’ve seen the pendulum swing,” said Bruce Buckheit, who worked in EPA enforcement under Clinton and then Bush, “but never as far as what appears to be going on today.”

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More bad news for the coal industry with layoffs in Mississippi.

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West Virginia’s governor wants a new subsidy for coal.

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West Virginia’s governor wants a new subsidy for coal.

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A disappearing island’s mayor challenged Al Gore on climate change.

James Eskridge, mayor of Virginia’s tiny Tangier Island, gave the climate change activist a piece of his mind during a televised town hall meeting Tuesday evening.

He blames his island’s slow descent into the Chesapeake Bay on erosion instead of encroachment from surrounding waters. “I’m not a scientist, but I’m a keen observer,” Eskridge said to Gore. “If sea-level rise is occurring, why am I not seeing signs of it?”

Scientists predict the residents of Tangier Island — which stands only four feet above sea level — will have to abandon it within 50 years due to rising waters. President Trump, meanwhile, reportedly called up Eskridge in June to say, “Your island has been there for hundreds of years, and I believe your island will be there for hundreds more.”

While Eskridge told Gore that the island needed a seawall to survive, the mayor doesn’t seem to buy either the experts’ or Trump’s assessments.

Gore explained that a challenge in climate communication is “taking what the scientists say and translating it into terms that are believable to people — where they can see the consequences in their own lives.”

But this is a case where someone can see it and still can’t believe it.

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A disappearing island’s mayor challenged Al Gore on climate change.

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Government scientist to Trump admin: ‘Abuse of power cannot go unanswered.’

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Government scientist to Trump admin: ‘Abuse of power cannot go unanswered.’

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That French plan to attract climate scientists? It’s working.

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That French plan to attract climate scientists? It’s working.

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3 million Mercedes cars got recalled over emissions concerns.

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3 million Mercedes cars got recalled over emissions concerns.

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No talking climate change to Zuck, White House tells scientist.

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No talking climate change to Zuck, White House tells scientist.

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