Tag Archives: climate

FEMA director calls San Juan mayor’s concerns ‘political noise.’

Sorry to ruin the party, but a report from the Food Climate Research Network casts doubt on recent suggestions that pasture-raised cattle could sequester massive amounts of carbon in the soil.

By nibbling plants and stimulating new root growth, the old argument goes, cows can encourage deeper root networks, which suck up more carbon. Proponents of grass-fed meat have embraced these findings, saying that pasture-raised livestock could mitigate the impact of meat consumption on the environment.

The new report — cleverly titled “Grazed and Confused?” — acknowledges that pastured cattle can be carbon negative, but this depends on the right soil and weather conditions. In most places, according to the report, grazers produce much more greenhouse gas than they add to the ground. It is an “inconvenient truth,” the authors write, that most studies show grass-fed beef has a bigger carbon footprint than feedlot meat. “Increasing grass-fed ruminant numbers is, therefore, a self-defeating climate strategy,” the report concludes.

Fortunately, grass-fed beef is not the only solution being bandied about: Research shows that a small dose of seaweed in livestock feed could drastically reduce methane emissions. And if you really want to reduce your impact on the climate you could, you know, stop eating meat.

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FEMA director calls San Juan mayor’s concerns ‘political noise.’

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California plans to reject a controversial natural gas plant, embracing a cleaner future.

Sorry to ruin the party, but a report from the Food Climate Research Network casts doubt on recent suggestions that pasture-raised cattle could sequester massive amounts of carbon in the soil.

By nibbling plants and stimulating new root growth, the old argument goes, cows can encourage deeper root networks, which suck up more carbon. Proponents of grass-fed meat have embraced these findings, saying that pasture-raised livestock could mitigate the impact of meat consumption on the environment.

The new report — cleverly titled “Grazed and Confused?” — acknowledges that pastured cattle can be carbon negative, but this depends on the right soil and weather conditions. In most places, according to the report, grazers produce much more greenhouse gas than they add to the ground. It is an “inconvenient truth,” the authors write, that most studies show grass-fed beef has a bigger carbon footprint than feedlot meat. “Increasing grass-fed ruminant numbers is, therefore, a self-defeating climate strategy,” the report concludes.

Fortunately, grass-fed beef is not the only solution being bandied about: Research shows that a small dose of seaweed in livestock feed could drastically reduce methane emissions. And if you really want to reduce your impact on the climate you could, you know, stop eating meat.

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California plans to reject a controversial natural gas plant, embracing a cleaner future.

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Obama’s FEMA chief: To rebuild after hurricanes, let’s talk climate change

This story was originally published by Mother Jones and is reproduced here as part of the Climate Desk collaboration.

The former Federal Emergency Management Agency chief has some advice for the Trump administration after back-to-back hurricanes in the past month: You have to look at climate change science if you want smarter disaster relief.

Drawing on eight years of experience leading FEMA under President Barack Obama, Craig Fugate warned on Tuesday that flood-prone areas can’t simply “rebuild to the past” using historical data on 100-year flood risk. Instead, he said at an event at the liberal Center for American Progress, the country needs to “build to future risk.”

The situation is especially critical now that Congress will be appropriating billions in aid to Texas, Florida, Puerto Rico, and the Virgin Islands. Climate change is helping make these disasters bigger and nastier, but Fugate said they are only natural hazards that “become natural disasters when we’re pricing risk too low. We’re putting vulnerable populations and your tax dollars at risk.”

Fugate refused to discuss President Donald Trump’s or FEMA’s response in Puerto Rico in his remarks or in conversations with the press on Tuesday, but his discussion of the Obama administration’s response to Superstorm Sandy in 2013 presented a stark contrast. He recounted how Obama gave him a specific charge after Sandy, saying that “we need to start talking about climate adaptation” to better cope with the new risks posed by rising global temperatures.

EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt had the opposite response after the hurricanes, saying a discussion of “a cause and effect isn’t helping.” When Trump was asked about climate change after Harvey, he said only, “We’ve had bigger storms.”

Just 10 days before Harvey’s record rainfall in Houston, Trump reversed Obama’s 2015 executive order to hold federal infrastructure spending to higher elevation standards in floodplains. Building even a foot or two above the existing standards saves money, and potentially lives, in the long-term, Fugate said. “Putting more money in the front end, we save the taxpayer in the long run,” he said. He also criticized the federal flood insurance program for pricing risk so low that it encourages overdevelopment in vulnerable areas, shifting the losses from flooding to the federal taxpayer.

Speaking to reporters at the event, Fugate gave an example of why climate adaptation is necessary. If, after a natural disaster, you rebuild a fire station at the same elevation, to the same building codes, then you risk losing critical emergency resources when they’re needed most. But if you build it to withstand the future risk we know is coming, then the fire station stays intact to help residents through the disaster.

“In many cases we’re doing things that just don’t make sense … and you’re saying you’re building back better,” Fugate said, adding, “We have to rebuild [Puerto Rico] back for a Maria.”

Mother Jones AJ Vicens has been reporting on the ground from Puerto Rico; read his story about how FEMA supplies and assistance have been slow to reach some communities, including one just 45 minutes from the capital, San Juan.

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Obama’s FEMA chief: To rebuild after hurricanes, let’s talk climate change

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EPA employees eagerly leak documents from their mandatory anti-leaking class.

“If you just look at the energy sector, we need about a trillion a year,” Barbara Buchner says about the gap between between our climate goals and the amount of investment in developing solutions.

To spur those needed investments, Buchner’s group, The Lab, just launched a new crop of projects aimed at making it easier for investors to put money into green investments. Projects include partnerships between hydropower operators and land conservation and restoration efforts and “climate smart” cattle ranching initiatives in Brazil, as well as more esoteric exploits in private equity and cleantech development.

There are three main barriers that keep investors away from innovative projects, Buchner says: lack of knowledge of new projects, perception of higher risk, and an unwillingness to go in alone on unproven projects.

Breaking down these barriers is important because that climate investment gap can’t be closed by government spending alone.

“It’s the backbone, it’s the engine behind overall climate finance,” Buchner says of these early, targeted projects by governments and non-governmental organizations. “But the private sector [investors] really are the ones that make the difference.”

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EPA employees eagerly leak documents from their mandatory anti-leaking class.

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Here’s how the avocado-toast bubble will burst.

“If you just look at the energy sector, we need about a trillion a year,” Barbara Buchner says about the gap between between our climate goals and the amount of investment in developing solutions.

To spur those needed investments, Buchner’s group, The Lab, just launched a new crop of projects aimed at making it easier for investors to put money into green investments. Projects include partnerships between hydropower operators and land conservation and restoration efforts and “climate smart” cattle ranching initiatives in Brazil, as well as more esoteric exploits in private equity and cleantech development.

There are three main barriers that keep investors away from innovative projects, Buchner says: lack of knowledge of new projects, perception of higher risk, and an unwillingness to go in alone on unproven projects.

Breaking down these barriers is important because that climate investment gap can’t be closed by government spending alone.

“It’s the backbone, it’s the engine behind overall climate finance,” Buchner says of these early, targeted projects by governments and non-governmental organizations. “But the private sector [investors] really are the ones that make the difference.”

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Here’s how the avocado-toast bubble will burst.

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Hurricane Maria poses a catastrophic threat to the Caribbean

This post has been updated to reflect Maria’s upgrade to Category 5.

The already miserable hurricane season is about to get worse, as Hurricane Maria barrels toward a storm-weary Caribbean.

Maria rapidly strengthened to a Category 5 hurricane on Monday, packing winds of at least 160 mph as it neared the eastern Caribbean island country of Dominica — one of the fastest intensifying hurricanes in history. Meteorologists with the National Hurricane Center warned that the storm would likely keep growing stronger as it moves closer to Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands, home to more than 3.5 million people. Ocean waters on its path are much warmer than normal, and atmospheric conditions are nearly ideal for a storm to intensify.

The latest forecast takes Maria ashore in Puerto Rico early Wednesday as a Category 5 — a worst-case scenario. Puerto Rico Governor Ricardo Rosselló declared a state of emergency to help the island prepare and speed the flow of disaster aid.

All this comes less than two weeks after Irma struck the Caribbean as one of the strongest hurricanes in history. The damage from Irma in the U.S. Virgin Islands was so severe that local officials, whose economy depends on tourism, have told visitors to stay away. Cruise ships have been put into service as rescue vessels. In some of the hardest hit islands, like Barbuda, Anguilla, and St. Martin, recovery could take years.

Even though the wounds of Irma are still fresh, it’s important to remember that a hurricane as strong as Maria is exceedingly rare in the Caribbean. According to weather records dating back to 1851, no Category 5 hurricane has ever struck Dominica. Hurricane David, in 1979, was the only Category 4 to do so. That storm ruined the local economy and left roughly three-quarters of the population homeless.

Irma was a powerful Category 5, but its center moved past Puerto Rico without a direct landfall, so although the island experienced massive power outages, Irma could have been much worse.

Maria will likely be much worse.

Weather models show Maria crossing the center of Puerto Rico at peak strength, becoming the first Category 5 to do so since 1928, and only the second in recorded history. The result could be catastrophic, with heavy rainfall leading to inland flooding and landslides, winds in excess of 170 mph battering coastal cities, and storm surge of six to nine feet inundating homes and businesses along the shoreline.

It’s impossible to overstate how serious a storm like Maria is. The U.S. Virgin Islands’ Governor Kenneth Mapp warned of high winds and torrential rain and called on islanders to prepare, even as relief supplies for Irma continued to pour in. “If your home is damaged,” he said, “do not ride out this storm in your home.”

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Hurricane Maria poses a catastrophic threat to the Caribbean

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Toxic water flooded Houston homes after Harvey, tests show

This story was originally published by Mother Jones and is reproduced here as part of the Climate Desk collaboration.

Last month, Hurricane Harvey dropped an unprecedented 50 inches of rain in Houston and across southeast Texas causing deadly floods and environmental disasters, such as chemical plant explosions and flooded toxic sites. Now, residents have another problem to worry about.

According to tests organized by the New York Times and conducted by a team from Baylor Medical College and Rice University, the floodwaters in two Houston neighborhoods have been contaminated with toxins and bacteria that can make people sick. It’s unclear where else these toxins might have spread, but 40 of 1,219 waste treatment plants are not functioning:

The results of The Times’s testing were troubling. Water flowing down Briarhills Parkway in the Houston Energy Corridor contained Escherichia coli, a measure of fecal contamination, at a level more than four times that considered safe.

In the Clayton Homes public housing development downtown, along the Buffalo Bayou, scientists found what they considered astonishingly high levels of E. coli in standing water in one family’s living room — levels 135 times those considered safe — as well as elevated levels of lead, arsenic, and other heavy metals in sediment from the floodwaters in the kitchen.

“There’s pretty clearly sewage contamination, and it’s more concentrated inside the home than outside the home,” said Lauren Stadler, an assistant professor of civil and environmental engineering at Rice University who participated in The Times’s research.

Houston residents who have returned to survey their homes and salvage belongings reported a stench in the air and feeling sick afterwards:

Brad Greer, 49, developed two scabby infections on each of his legs where rain boots had irritated his skin. He took antibiotics, but on Saturday, he said, he started feeling light-headed and weak as he and his brother-in-law tried to move possessions from Mr. Greer’s flooded home.

He went to the emergency room at Houston Methodist, where he was put on an intravenous drip and given another antibiotic prescription. Mr. Greer said swimming pools around his neighborhood are rank.

“All the pools are just giant toilets you’re unable to flush,” he said.

The medical team that tested the water is concerned about residents wading through the toxic waters. “If people have bad headaches, respiratory problems, swelling of a limb, or a bad rash, go see a doctor right away,” Winifred Hamilton, the environmental health service director at Baylor College of Medicine, told the New York Times. “Don’t assume it will go away on its own.”

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Toxic water flooded Houston homes after Harvey, tests show

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Evolution – Scientific American Editors

READ GREEN WITH E-BOOKS

Evolution

The Human Odyssey

Scientific American Editors

Genre: Life Sciences

Price: $4.99

Publish Date: August 21, 2017

Publisher: Scientific American

Seller: Macmillan / Holtzbrinck Publishers, LLC


The complex story of human evolution is a tale seven million years in the making. Each new discovery adds to or revises our story and our understanding of how we came to be the way we are. In this eBook, The Human Odyssey, we explore the evolution of those characteristics that make us human. The first section, “Where We Came From,” looks at our family tree and why some branches survived and not others. Swings in climate are emerging as a factor in what traits succeeded and failed, as we see in “Climate Shocks;” meanwhile in “Human Hybrids,” DNA analyses show that Homo sapiens interbred with other human species, which played a key role in our survival. Section Two, “What Makes Us Special,” examines those traits that separate us from other primates. Recent data indicate that our hairless skin was important to the rise of other human features, and other research is getting closer to illuminating how humans became monogamous, as shown in “The Naked Truth” and “Powers of Two,” respectively. In the final section, “Where We Are Going,” we speculate on the future of human evolution in a world where advances in technology, medicine and other areas protect us from harmful factors like disease, causing some scientists to claim that humans are no longer subject to natural selection and our evolution has ceased. Far from that, in “Still Evolving,” author John Hawks discusses how humans have evolved rapidly over the past 30,000 years, as seen in relatively recent traits like blue eyes or lactose tolerance, why such rapid evolution has been possible and what future generations might look like. Like us, our story will continue to evolve.

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Evolution – Scientific American Editors

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Trump reversed a plastic water bottle ban in national parks.

The fossil fuel industry has largely applauded the administration’s assault on environmental policy, like green-lighting controversial pipelines. Oh, and don’t forget that Trump “canceled” the Paris Climate Agreement.

Now, Politico Pro reports that some industry insiders say the Trump administration’s hasty environmental rule–scrapping has gone too far — and they’re getting worried about what might happen if disaster strikes.

“Every industry wants regulations that make sense,” Brian Youngberg, an energy analyst, told Politico. Trashing too many rules could lead to an environmental catastrophe, and might prompt even stricter regulations down the road.

Imagine a major disaster occurred — say, one akin to the 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico. People might not look kindly upon President Trump’s executive order in April that reversed Obama-era restrictions on offshore drilling. Trump’s move abolished key safety improvements and opened up environmentally sensitive areas in the Gulf, the Arctic, and the Atlantic Ocean to potential oil drilling.

If a disaster were to happen, an anonymous source at an oil and gas company told Politico, “[W]e’d be painted with it as an entire industry.”

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Trump reversed a plastic water bottle ban in national parks.

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Don’t look now, but the Gulf of Mexico’s “dead zone” is the biggest yet.

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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Don’t look now, but the Gulf of Mexico’s “dead zone” is the biggest yet.

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