There's a question I often pose to my undergrad students after discussing the many implications of climate change:
“Do you think we'll be able to change before it's too late, or do you think it's going to take some kind of natural disaster to get us moving?”
Unsurprisingly, most students choose the latter, although melancholically. It's not that they want it to be the case, but with all the data and warnings from scientists, up against the misinformation spewing from powerful fossil fuel corporations, they logically don't see it happening any other way.
It's the sad truth considering we're on the verge of a major presidential election and not once has either candidate discussed climate change or its potential threat to our country in the debates.
And while environmentalists and climate hawks rightfully shamed the candidates for not addressing the issue, apparently Mother Nature wasn't going to let “climate silence” continue. Hurricane Sandy slammed into the coast bringing the east coast to its knees.
- Twitter URL
- Profile Info
Laurel Whitney is an up and coming contender in the climate change arena. Currently residing in New York City, she is an adjunct professor in the Environmental Studies department at Pace University, where she gets to depress aspiring freshman about how the world is riding a flaming rollercoaster towards ecological disaster. She also works as an environmental/climate change consultant, working on a diverse array of projects including documentary production, environmental education, activist organizing, and the occasional spout of journalism. She has lectured around the country, and will be published in an upcoming book called The Next Eco-Warriors.
Laurel takes the newfangled attack on scientific integrity quite personally as she doesn’t ever remember taking a class on How to Make Up and Manipulate Your Data 101 or How to Get Rich Off of Government Research Contracts 110 while attaining her multiple science degrees. She received her BS in marine science and chemistry from the University of South Carolina, where she researched Arctic biogeochemistry for several years. Realizing scientists had a knack for articulating but not captivating, she went on to study the many ways (well, failures) climate change is relayed to and perceived by the American public. She received her multidisciplinary MA in Climate and Society from Columbia University where she had the honor of working with and learning from many leading scientists at the International Research Institute of Climate and Society and the Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory.
Since then, she’s focused on cultivating creative media projects that poke at the emboldening battle between multinationals, politicos, and the scientific community. Now she spends her days feeding her obsession to save the world and illuminate these crucial issues with an additional spoonful of comedy, satire, and logic. Past collaborators include Earthjustice, The Age of Stupid, The Yes Men, Rainforest Alliance, and hopefully many more to come.
There's a question I often pose to my undergrad students after discussing the many implications of climate change:
That gush of wind some New York residents felt earlier this week presumably came from thousands of simultaneous “finger sparkles” as anti-fracking activists rejoiced while industry executives collectively grunted and ha-rumphed upon hearing the decision of Governor Andrew Cuomo to press the reset button on fracking approvals for the state. As impacts will be reanalyzed, this time to include more study into the potential consequences to public health, the reevaluation period is likely to push back a steadfast approval or ban at least a year or two.
The postponement obviously rattles industry members and a few landowners who want to start exploiting local fuel sources. But even some anti-fracking organizers aren't pleased, calling it “a reprise” when they'd rather see a full ban on the practice in the state.
But what do the state's farmers say?
If you haven't heard about the major droughts afflicting most of the US this summer, then you may just have your head in the sand (or more likely a water-parched dusty hole). In fact, the media department of the Drought Monitor website ran out of combinations for modifying the words “intensify” and “widespread” when referring to the drought in their headlines.
Indeed, if you have been keeping tabs on the situation, “megadrought” and “a new normal?” sound highly familiar by now. With farmers nervous about a modern-day Dust Bowl taking hold, the question on everyone's mind is, how long will it last?
This visceral threat of water scarcity puts a new report about the true cost of fossil fuels in perspective. “The Hidden Costs of Electricity: Comparing the Hidden Costs of Power Generation Fuels” evaluates, among other parameters, the water demands of fuel sources such as biomass, coal, nuclear, natural gas, solar, and wind.
In short, the nonrenewables like nuclear and coal use far more water to generate electricity than clean energy technologies like solar and wind. Take a look at how much water power plants need to function (mainly for the purpose of cooling):
The Heartland Institute has had a rough time the last couple of months. The climate denial shop has endured the release of embarrassing leaked documents. Then it launched a devastatingly ill-conceived billboard campaign associating climate science adherents with serial killers. That didn't work out so well. So Heartland's donors started pulling out. Its annual Denial-a-palooza festival was put out to pasture.
Despite the exodus of support for Heartland's extremist views, one major health care company remains a financial supporter of the Heartland Institute.
Pfizer, a major pharmaceutical company, continues to support Heartland, although its competitors, Bayer, GlaxoSmithKline, and Eli Lily, have already pulled out. Now Forecast the Facts is issuing a call to medical professionals to sign a letter urging Pfizer to dissolve its relationship with Heartland.
According to Pfizer, while the company has publicly stated it disagrees with Heartland on its stance on climate, it still supports Heartland's record on health care.
Here's why that's ironic.
It looks like Tennessee can add another dumb law to join the ranks of other special ones such as being able to shoot whales out of a car, marrying your cousin, and not being allowed to carry skunks into the state or electrifying your trash. It now joins Louisiana in being one of the only two states to have anti-evolution and anti-climate laws in effect.
The National Center for Science Education (NCSE) recently posted their yearly anti-science legislation scorecard. It tallies up all the bills that states tried to pass over the past year attempting to interpose more “objectivity” into science curriculum.
Normally objectivity in science isn't a bad thing, in fact it's quite necessary and essential. However, these state legislatures' brand of objectivity means questioning well-proven theories like evolution and climate change, which are supported by mounds of evidence and have earned consensus among (legitimate) scientists.
Recall that a “theory” in science has a different connotation than when everyday people use it. A scientific theory has been rigorously tested and reviewed by multiple experts by the time it's assigned that label.
There's a saying that trouble comes in threes. Earlier this week, the International Energy Administration announced that emissions reached a record high last year, increasing by 1 Gt worldwide. At the Bonn climate talks, experts have warned that the window to curb a global temperature rise of more than 2 degrees is swiftly drawing to a close.
To cap it off, NOAA released the news that carbon dioxide levels have reached a new milestone this spring, tipping the scales over 400 ppm, a concentration the world hasn't seen in the last 800,000 years.
Scientists are seeing these high concentrations at their northernmost stations in the Arctic. Remote sites measure the gas in Alaska, Canada, Iceland, Finland, Norway, and also an island in the North Pacific, Mauna Loa, which has been recording ambient CO2 concentrations since 1959 (and produced the now-famous Keeling curve).
The global average is still around 395 ppm, but the Arctic is seen as an important indicator for global conditions to come, since it is an ecosystem that is much more sensitive to changing conditions.
“The northern sites in our monitoring network tell us what is coming soon to the globe as a whole,” said Pieter Tans, an atmospheric scientist with NOAA’s Earth System Research Laboratory (ESRL) in Boulder, Colo. “We will likely see global average CO2 concentrations reach 400 ppm about 2016.”
New York landowners are having a hard time evicting an unwanted tenant, it seems. That's why over 200 people residing in the Marcellus Shale are suing energy companies such as Chesapeake Energy Corp. and Inflection Energy, arguing that the land leases they originally signed with the companies over 5 years ago are now expired.
Originally, land owners signed on with companies like Chesapeake thinking it was a way to earn much needed revenue from their lands. However, citing New York's moratorium and descending gas prices alongside emerging environmental and health complications, many want out. With many of the contracts past their end dates, you would think that wouldn't be such a huge problem.
Except with thousands of acres of land at stake, the oil and gas companies aren't releasing or renegotiating any new leases any time soon, invoking the act of God and natural disaster clauses of the leases.
In legal speak, it's called “force majeure.” It allows the terms of a lease to continue based on unforeseen circumstances. Usually this counts for natural disasters or “acts of God”, but in this case, the companies are arguing that the moratorium on fracking in New York state should fall under this clause and allow them to retain the land.
It's okay, people. We've been blowing this whole fracking thing way out of proportion. Dr. Barry Stevens of TBD America sets the record straight in hopes that we'll re-align our focus and concentrate on the real issues at hand, which, by the way, is not fracking (Spoiler Alert: it's toothpaste).
Over at OilPrice.com, Dr. Stevens has provided an exhaustive retort to some “environmentalist” who posed the question, “if hydraulic fracturing is so safe, why do drilling operators working in Pennsylvania’s Marcellus Shale Play dispose the backflow out of state in Ohio?”
Let me summarize some of Dr. Steven's salient points for you:
Earthquakes really aren't that big a deal.
“…injection well seismicity typically ranges from 1 to 4 on the Richter scale and rarely cause damage.”
Sure, Youngstown, Ohio, where the earthquakes happened, may have never had them before, but that doesn't mean anything. The State Representative there is just going way overboard in calling for an indefinite moratorium there. The citizens should really be thinking of it as a free city-wide massage. Besides, the D&L Energy said it will be conducting its own investigation. I’m sure they’ll find it’s nothing to worry about.
Chances are, if you're already concerned about being off'ed by climate change, it's probably because you imagine being swept away by a super-charged hurricane, drowned by rising sea levels, starved because of drought-induced crop failure, or set aflame by roaring wildfires. But as it turns out, your risk of perishing by the titans of extreme weather may be a ways off - because the heat may get to you first.
If you didn't already know, heat is actually the number one killer amongst its weather-related brethren, causing more fatalities than floods, lightning, tornadoes, and hurricanes combined, according to NOAA.
A new report released this week by the NRDC, “Killer Summer Heat: Projected Death Toll from Rising Temperatures in America Due to Climate Change” [PDF], estimates that 150,000 people could die because of heat-related deaths, with numbers increasing over the century as climate change continues to crank up the temperatures. And, predictably so, communities' ability to cope with the ordeal will depend on our efforts to reduce carbon pollution and employ life-saving adaptive measures.