Tag Archives: climate & energy

FEMA struck a deal with a company that failed to deliver enough meals to Puerto Rico.

Which, by the way, is melting.

“This discovery is a game-changer,” said Paul Schuster, lead author of a new study that quantified the total mercury in the Arctic’s frozen permafrost.

And it’s a lot of mercury! To be precise, 793 gigagrams — more than 15 million gallons — of the stuff is currently locked up in frozen northern soils. That’s by far the biggest reservoir of mercury on the planet — almost twice the amount held by the rest of the world’s earth, oceans, and atmosphere combined.

This wouldn’t be a problem if the permafrost stayed, well, permanently frosty. But, as previous research has outlined, it’s not.

Mercury is a toxin that can cause birth effects and neurological damage in animals, including humans. And mercury levels accumulate as you go up the food chain, which is why king-of-the-jungle species like tuna and whale can be unsafe to eat in large quantities.

As thawing permafrost releases more mercury into the atmosphere and oceans, the implications for human health are troubling. Locally, many northern communities rely on subsistence hunting and fishing, two sources of possible mercury contamination. Globally, the toxin could travel great distances and collect in distant ecosystems.

As if we didn’t already have enough reasons to want permafrost to stay frozen.

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FEMA struck a deal with a company that failed to deliver enough meals to Puerto Rico.

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A record-breaking number of scientists are running for office this year.

Which, by the way, is melting.

“This discovery is a game-changer,” said Paul Schuster, lead author of a new study that quantified the total mercury in the Arctic’s frozen permafrost.

And it’s a lot of mercury! To be precise, 793 gigagrams — more than 15 million gallons — of the stuff is currently locked up in frozen northern soils. That’s by far the biggest reservoir of mercury on the planet — almost twice the amount held by the rest of the world’s earth, oceans, and atmosphere combined.

This wouldn’t be a problem if the permafrost stayed, well, permanently frosty. But, as previous research has outlined, it’s not.

Mercury is a toxin that can cause birth effects and neurological damage in animals, including humans. And mercury levels accumulate as you go up the food chain, which is why king-of-the-jungle species like tuna and whale can be unsafe to eat in large quantities.

As thawing permafrost releases more mercury into the atmosphere and oceans, the implications for human health are troubling. Locally, many northern communities rely on subsistence hunting and fishing, two sources of possible mercury contamination. Globally, the toxin could travel great distances and collect in distant ecosystems.

As if we didn’t already have enough reasons to want permafrost to stay frozen.

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A record-breaking number of scientists are running for office this year.

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We might know where Trump has been getting some of his wacky ideas

Ever wonder who’s behind President Trump’s backward energy policies? The Heartland Institute, a libertarian, climate-denying think tank, seems to be taking credit. Experts from the Koch- and Exxon-funded group took a victory lap after Trump praised “clean, beautiful coal” in Tuesday’s State of the Union address.

“One of the most thrilling aspects of the speech was the total absence of climate change hysteria,” Heartland’s Science Director Jay Lehr said in a statement issued in response to the speech. While Trump mentioned that the nation had “endured floods, and fires, and storms,” he didn’t note climate change — the factor that fanned their flames.

Lehr’s gushing over the president approached the point of satire: “After watching it a second time, I could not find a single sentence I would have changed.”

That’s not too surprising, considering that the White House had reached out to the group a few weeks earlier to ask if they “had other suggestions” for the speech, according to Heartland President Tim Huelskamp.

“The Heartland Institute has been advising many in the administration on climate and energy policy, so we were certainly encouraged and excited the president promoted his pro-energy, pro-America vision in his State of the Union Address,” Huelskamp said in the statement.

Soon after Trump was elected, the Heartland Institute laid out a climate and energy wish list. The administration has already fully or partially accomplished eight of those 13 goals. Some of the policy recommendations: Withdraw from the Paris Agreement, approve the Keystone XL pipeline, roll back air pollution rules, and end “conflicts of interest” on scientific review boards (i.e., bar expert scientists from advisory panels).

Many of the Trump administration’s actions over the past year — even just the past day — align with Heartland’s wish list. On Wednesday, EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt formally suspended an Obama-era rule to clean up our streams and waters. (No. 6 on Heartland’s list: “Withdraw implementation of the Waters of the U.S. rule.”)

Heartland isn’t the only group out there with these kind of goals. In October, the Sierra Club obtained emails showing that Peabody Energy, a major coal company, provided input to the Energy Department on a study about how to help coal plants. And last month, the New York Times reported that the administration had already accomplished most of the 16 items on the environmental rollback wish list by coal baron Robert Murray, a longtime Trump supporter.

And even though The Heartland Institute has gotten more than it ever hoped for, it yearns for even more: It wants to stop subsidies for wind and power, shrink more national monuments, and, you know, end the entire EPA.

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We might know where Trump has been getting some of his wacky ideas

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California makes big money from its carbon pricing program. Who gets it?

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California makes big money from its carbon pricing program. Who gets it?

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Emmanuel Macron is breaking up with coal sooner than expected. Is he … serious about us?

The Environmental Protection Agency relaxed regulations on some major sources of pollution on Thursday. The agency repealed its “once in, always in” policy under the Clean Air Act, which had been used to regulate major polluters since 1995.

Basically: Until just now, if you own a factory or power plant that qualified as a major polluter, but was modified to reduce hazardous output, you still had to comply with the regulations that apply to major polluters.

Why is it important to regulate sources of pollution even after they’re retrofitted to emit less? Because industry has a tendency to do the bare minimum to bring factories just below the “major polluter” threshold to subvert regulations.

The “once in, always in” rule has been effective in mitigating some of the negative effects of air pollution, which include brain damage, infertility, and cancer.

That’s why environmentalists are up in arms about the EPA’s decision to repeal the policy. It’s possible that hundreds of factories will profit from the reduced regulation.

“And those harmed most would be nearby communities already suffering a legacy of pollution,” John Walke, the NRDC’s clean air director, said in a statement.

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Emmanuel Macron is breaking up with coal sooner than expected. Is he … serious about us?

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France’s ban on oil drilling could keep 5 billion barrels in the ground.

For a country that already imports 99 percent of its oil, France’s decision to end all new oil development and phase out existing projects by 2040 may not seem all that meaningful. The Guardian called it a “largely symbolic gesture.”

But actually, as geoscientist Erik Klemetti noted, France is committing to keeping a massive oil reservoir in the ground. The Paris Basin, a region in northern France, may contain nearly as much underground petroleum as the huge Bakken Formation in North Dakota. Extracting that oil and gas would require extensive fracking.

Klemetti calculates that France could extract 100 years worth of oil for the country by fully exploring the Paris Basin — which could contain, according to the top estimate, 5 billion barrels of oil. At current oil prices (around $58 per barrel), that’s worth about $290 billion.

Instead, France decided to say au revoir to oil and gas altogether.

Earlier this year, the country also announced it would ban internal combustion engines by 2040. With decisions like these, France is positioning itself on the right side of history. And it’s sending a message to a world that’s floundering on climate change: A more just and prosperous future is possible, and it doesn’t require the dirty fuels of the past.

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France’s ban on oil drilling could keep 5 billion barrels in the ground.

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California is preparing for a weekend of wintertime wildfires.

Forests in the American West are having a harder time recovering from wildfires because of (what else?) climate change, according to new research published in Ecology Letters.

Researchers measured the growth of seedlings in 1,500 wildfire-scorched areas in Colorado, Wyoming, Washington, Idaho, and Montana. Across the board, they found “significant decreases” in tree regeneration, a benchmark for forest resilience. In one-third of the sites, researchers found zero seedlings.

The warmest, driest forests were hit especially hard.

“Seedlings are more sensitive to warm, dry conditions than mature trees, so if the right conditions don’t exist within a few years following a wildfire, tree seedlings may not establish,” said Philip Higuera, a coauthor of the study.

Earlier this month, a separate study found that ponderosa pine and pinyon forests in the West are becoming less resilient due to droughts and warmer temperatures. Researchers told the New York Times that as trees disappear, some forests could shift to entirely different ecosystems, like grasslands or shrublands.

You’d think the rapid reconfiguration of entire ecosystems would really light a fire under us to deal with climate change, wouldn’t you?

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California is preparing for a weekend of wintertime wildfires.

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Coastal cities are in serious jeopardy, new sea-level rise study shows.

Called “Build Back Better,” the plan focuses on providing immediate relief while also making the island’s energy infrastructure more resilient to future storms. That means fortifying the electric transmission system and bulking up defenses at power plants and substations.

The plan also envisions a Puerto Rico dotted with solar farms and wind turbines, linked by more than 150 microgrids. Of the 470,000 homes destroyed in Maria’s high winds, the report points out many could be built back with rooftop solar. New battery storage systems would allow hospitals, fire stations, water treatment plants, airports, and other critical facilities to keep the lights on without power from the grid.

Overall, $1.5 billion of the plan’s budget would go to these distributed renewable energy resources.

The plan was concocted by a bunch of industry and government groups working together, including the federal Department of Energy, Puerto Rico’s utility, several other state power authorities, and private utility companies like ConEd. If enacted, it would take the next 10 years to complete.

With a $94 billion Puerto Rico relief plan in Congress right now, it’s actually possible that $17 billion of that could go to building a renewable, resilient energy system for the future. It’d be a steal.

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Coastal cities are in serious jeopardy, new sea-level rise study shows.

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Trump’s lawyers tried (and probably failed) to throw out the kids’ climate lawsuit.

Called “Build Back Better,” the plan focuses on providing immediate relief while also making the island’s energy infrastructure more resilient to future storms. That means fortifying the electric transmission system and bulking up defenses at power plants and substations.

The plan also envisions a Puerto Rico dotted with solar farms and wind turbines, linked by more than 150 microgrids. Of the 470,000 homes destroyed in Maria’s high winds, the report points out many could be built back with rooftop solar. New battery storage systems would allow hospitals, fire stations, water treatment plants, airports, and other critical facilities to keep the lights on without power from the grid.

Overall, $1.5 billion of the plan’s budget would go to these distributed renewable energy resources.

The plan was concocted by a bunch of industry and government groups working together, including the federal Department of Energy, Puerto Rico’s utility, several other state power authorities, and private utility companies like ConEd. If enacted, it would take the next 10 years to complete.

With a $94 billion Puerto Rico relief plan in Congress right now, it’s actually possible that $17 billion of that could go to building a renewable, resilient energy system for the future. It’d be a steal.

Read this article:

Trump’s lawyers tried (and probably failed) to throw out the kids’ climate lawsuit.

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Climate change is disappearing from government websites — and from research, too.

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Climate change is disappearing from government websites — and from research, too.

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