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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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Trump wants to ignore the effects of climate change when permitting infrastructure projects.

The state’s attorney general, Xavier Becerra, filed a lawsuit on Friday to get the agency to say how it plans to handle Administrator Scott Pruitt’s potential conflicts of interest. Pruitt is now in charge of enforcing rules that he tried to unravel with numerous lawsuits as Oklahoma’s attorney general.

“Administrator Pruitt’s ability to serve as an impartial decision maker merits close examination,” Becerra said in a statement.

In April, Becerra filed a broad Freedom of Information Act request for documents tied to Pruitt’s potential conflicts of interest and efforts to follow federal ethics laws. Generally, agencies must respond to a FOIA request within 20 business days, though they have some wiggle room. But four months later, the EPA has yet to turn over anything.

Liz Bowman, an EPA spokesperson, told the Los Angeles Times that the agency had twice told Becerra’s office they were working on assembling the documents. She said the lawsuit was “draining resources that could be better spent protecting human health and the environment.”

The suit from the Golden State is just part of the legal backlash Pruitt’s staring down: He’s already been sued over ozone regulations and the suspension of methane restrictions for new oil and gas wells.

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Trump wants to ignore the effects of climate change when permitting infrastructure projects.

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How can Pruitt sue himself? California wants to know.

During a Thursday interview on a Texas radio show the EPA administrator said his agency wants objective science to buttress its mission. Sounds like something Pruitt and scientists can agree on, right?

Not exactly. Right after endorsing peer-reviewed science Pruitt dropped this: “Science should not be something that’s just thrown about to try to dictate policy in Washington, D.C.”

Experts at NOAA, the Department of the Interior, and Pruitt’s own agency have said they think science is exactly what policy should be based on.

On air, Pruitt touched on his usual topics: Superfund, how the Paris Agreement is a bad deal for the U.S., and, of course, CO2. The radio station’s meteorologist asked Pruitt why the country has such a preoccupation with the greenhouse gas. “It serves political ends,” Pruitt said. “The past administration used it as a wedge issue.”

Besides the conflicting statements on science, it was a pretty classic Pruitt interview. But we can finally put one burning question to rest about our newish EPA administrator: Does he separate his trash into the proper bins? “I have,” Pruitt said coyly. “I have recycled.”

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How can Pruitt sue himself? California wants to know.

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Remember Flint? Bruno Mars surprised concertgoers with $1 million toward its recovery.

During a Thursday interview on a Texas radio show the EPA administrator said his agency wants objective science to buttress its mission. Sounds like something Pruitt and scientists can agree on, right?

Not exactly. Right after endorsing peer-reviewed science Pruitt dropped this: “Science should not be something that’s just thrown about to try to dictate policy in Washington, D.C.”

Experts at NOAA, the Department of the Interior, and Pruitt’s own agency have said they think science is exactly what policy should be based on.

On air, Pruitt touched on his usual topics: Superfund, how the Paris Agreement is a bad deal for the U.S., and, of course, CO2. The radio station’s meteorologist asked Pruitt why the country has such a preoccupation with the greenhouse gas. “It serves political ends,” Pruitt said. “The past administration used it as a wedge issue.”

Besides the conflicting statements on science, it was a pretty classic Pruitt interview. But we can finally put one burning question to rest about our newish EPA administrator: Does he separate his trash into the proper bins? “I have,” Pruitt said coyly. “I have recycled.”

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Remember Flint? Bruno Mars surprised concertgoers with $1 million toward its recovery.

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Scott Pruitt doesn’t want to politicize science.

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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Scott Pruitt doesn’t want to politicize science.

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Greenland, the land of ice and snow, is burning

This is going to sound weird, but there’s a wildfire right now in west Greenland. You know, that huge island of mostly ice? Part of it is on fire.

There’s been nothing even close to this since reliable satellite-based fire detection records began in Greenland in 2000. Very small wildfires can evade satellite detection, and old-timer scientists who have worked in Greenland for decades say that micro-fires there aren’t necessarily uncommon.

This week’s fire, however, is on another level.

“This is the largest wildfire we know of,” says Stef Lhermitte, a satellite expert at Technische Universiteit in Delft, Netherlands, who did some of the initial mapping of the fire. “For a lot of people, it’s been a bit of discovery on the go.” The fire was first spotted by a local aircraft on July 31.

What’s striking about the Greenland fire is that it fits a larger trend of rapid change across the northern reaches of the planet. A 2013 study found that across the entire Arctic, forests are burning at a rate unseen in at least 10,000 years.

By American standards, the Greenland fire is small, covering around 1,200 acres (about two square miles) — about the size of midtown Manhattan. The massive Lodgepole Complex wildfire that scorched eastern Montana in July — the largest fire in the country this year — was more than 200 times bigger. But for Greenland, a fire of this size is so unusual that even scientists who study the huge island don’t really know what to make of it.

The Danish meteorological service (Greenland is technically an autonomously governing part of Denmark) said it has no experts who specialize in Greenland fire. The European Commission has tasked its Emergency Management Service with a rapid mapping of the region of the fire, in part to help local officials assess the risks to public health. Mark Parrington, a meteorologist with the European government, said on Twitter that he “didn’t expect to be adding Greenland into my fire monitoring,” adding that he may need to recalibrate his air pollution models to account for the smoldering way that fire tends to burn in permafrost soil.

Riikka Rinnan, an ecologist at the University of Copenhagen, said her research team had started work earlier this summer on how potential fires could impact Greenland’s tundra, but didn’t expect one so soon. Jessica McCarty, a satellite data expert at Miami University in Ohio, said she’s planning to have one of her students construct what might be the first-ever comprehensive history of fires in Greenland.

And yes, as you might expect, climate change probably made this whole thing more likely.

“Everything we know suggests that fire will increase in the Arctic,” climate scientist Jason Box, whose work focuses on Greenland, told me. “It’s fair to say that it’s part of the pattern of warming. We should see more such fires in Greenland.”

Though west Greenland, where the fire is burning, is a semi-arid region, rainfall and temperatures there have been increasing, helping to foster more dense vegetation. Box says this is part of the “shrubification” of the entire Arctic as temperatures warm and the growing season lengthens. Denser vegetation is making large fires more likely, in combination with the simultaneous tendency for longer and more intense droughts and the rise in thunderstorm likelihood due to erratic weather patterns.

Box says he saw a fire in west Greenland back in 1999. “It’s pretty interesting for Greenland, people don’t think about it as a place where that’s possible — nor did I until I saw it with my own eyes.” Once he realized he was watching a wildfire, he said, “It was like, what the heck? What is going on?”

What set off this blaze? The scientists I spoke with aren’t sure. The primary cause of Arctic wildfires is lightning, but a lightning storm in Greenland would have been news. Thunderstorms typically need warm, humid air for fuel, and both are in short supply so close to the world’s second largest ice sheet.

According to John Kappelen, a Danish meteorologist, the region surrounding the fire has had well below average rainfall since June, making wildfire more likely.

“This time of year, everybody’s going out and picking berries and fishing and hunting,” says Ruth Mottram, a climate scientist at the Danish meteorological service who conducts frequent fieldwork in Greenland. Maybe someone in the area set a fire that grew into the big blaze. Greenland’s second largest town, Sisimiut, with a population of 5,500, is about 90 miles away.

Mottram says that if the fire is burning in peatland, it could rage for weeks. If the winds shift, soot from the fire could be transported up to the ice sheet, where it might speed local melting in the coming years by darkening the surface of the ice, helping it to absorb more energy from the sun. This is something that scientists like Box and Mottram are spending their careers studying, but up to now, they thought that virtually all the soot that’s making the bright white ice darker was transported there from Canada or Russia. Now, a new source may be emerging.

Should wildfires like this one increase in frequency, we may have just witnessed the start of a new, scary feedback loop.

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Greenland, the land of ice and snow, is burning

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Can Greenwashing Ever Be Good?

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Can Greenwashing Ever Be Good?

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Apparently, all it takes to fix strained relations in Washington is beer.

That’s the conclusion of a study led by Helen Harwatt, an environmental nutrition researcher at Loma Linda University.

You may feel paralyzed and powerless to save the human race from climate doom in the face of Trump’s exit from the Paris Agreement. As our favorite doctor-turned-journalist James Hamblin writes in The Atlantic: “The remedy … is knowing what can be done to mitigate environmental degradation, from within in a country singularly committed to it.”

This switch is a relatively easy suggestion!

Okay, one caveat before you start feeling too good. Making the transition from beef to beans could reduce carbon-equivalent emissions by 334 million metric tons — but the United States releases over 6 billion metric tons each year. It gets us closer to the goal Obama set at the 2009 Copenhagen talks, but it doesn’t solve the problem.

Still, it’s worth noting that the trend line on that big ugly graph is moving in the right direction and getting closer to the Copenhagen goal. Much of that can be attributed to (potentially threatened) EPA regulations and a switch from coal to natural gas, but small lifestyle changes on a large scale can nudge it further.

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Apparently, all it takes to fix strained relations in Washington is beer.

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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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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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