climate change

Famous Canadian Ice Road Melts for the Last Time

Northwest Territories Inuvik to Tuktoyaktuk Ice Road, Matt Jacques|DeSmog Canada

Each winter in Canada’s far north, a series of ice roads take form, providing people and supply trucks temporary access to the region’s otherwise isolated towns. But rapid changes to Canada’s north means this spring marks the final melt of one of the north’s famed ice highways, the ‘Road to the Top of the World,’ stretching across 187 kilometres of frozen Mackenzie Delta and Arctic Ocean in the Northwest Territories, linking Inuvik to Tuktoyaktuk.

It’s taking longer for everything to freeze up, and the ice isn’t as thick,” Wally Schumann, the minister of infrastructure for the Northwest Territories, told the New York Times in April. The Northwest Territories is warming at four to five times the global rate.

Under construction right now is a new permanent $300-million all-weather road — but its long-term stability is also challenged by the unpredictable, warming landscape says Phil Marsh, professor and Canada Research Chair in Cold Regions Water Science at Wilfred Laurier University.

This area is continuous permafrost with massive amounts of ground ice,” Marsh explained.

In the spring, melting water can carve sizeable channels through the ground ice, “which can rapidly drain a lake in less than twenty four hours.”

How Climate Change Ensures Hotter Weather as New Normal for Boston Marathon

Crowd watching runners pass during the 2010 Boston Marathon

The 121st Boston Marathon has come and gone, and once again temperatures rose above normal, a perennial concern for runners hoping to hit fast times in this historic Patriot's Day race.

When the gun went off for the elite women's race at 9:30 a.m. ET, it was 70 degrees Fahrenheit, and by the time the winner crossed the finish line on Boylston Street 2 hours 21 minutes and 52 seconds later, the mercury had creeped into the low 70's. The average high for Boston in April is 56 degrees F.

Scientific studies have shown that ideal marathon racing conditions range between roughly 40 and 45 degrees F. Warmer weather and higher humidity makes it more physiologically difficult to maintain a consistent pace.

But this year was not an aberration. Last year's starting temperature was also high, hitting 71 degrees F. The 2012 race began at 65 degrees and 2015 at 61. And as scientists have pointed out, high temperatures could be the new normal for this famous race, meaning its days of breaking running records could become much rarer.

Yes, We Can Do 'Sound' Climate Science Even Though It's Projecting the Future

model showing global water vapor in the atmosphere

By Kevin Trenberth, National Center for Atmospheric Research and Reto Knutti, Eidgenössische Technische Hochschule (ETH) Zürich

Increasingly in the current U.S. administration and Congress, questions have been raised about the use of proper scientific methods and accusations have been made about using flawed approaches. The Conversation

This is especially the case with regard to climate science, as evidenced by the hearing of the House Committee on Science, Space and Technology, chaired by Lamar Smith, on March 29, 2017.

House Science Committee Leader Says Climate Scientists Are Trying to Control People’s Lives

Lamar Smith

Republican Rep. Lamar Smith, chair of the House Science, Space, and Technology Committee, declared in a speech on the floor of the House of Representatives this week that the people warning us about the dangers of global warming — which definitely includes climate scientists — are either trying to make a quick buck, or they’re just trying to control our lives.

Climate Politics: Environmentalists Need to Think Globally, But Act Locally

Three people sit overlooking Bears Ears National Monument

By  and University of Washington

As President Trump pivots from a failed attempt to overhaul health care to new orders rolling back controls on carbon pollution, environmentalists are preparing for an intense fight. We study environmental politics, and believe the health care debate holds an important lesson for green advocates: Policies that create concrete benefits for specific constituencies are hard to discontinue.

Opinion polls and hostile audiences at Republican legislators’ town hall meetings show that the Affordable Care Act won public support by extending health insurance to the uninsured. And this constituency is not shy about defending its gains.

The same lesson can be applied to environmental issues. In our view, environmentalists need to defend environmental regulations by emphasizing their concrete benefits for well-defined constituencies, and mobilize those groups to protect their gains.

Media Matters Report Shows Stunning Lack of Climate Change Coverage on TV Networks in 2016

TV news vans

A new report from Media Matters for America details the astounding lack of coverage of climate change from major U.S. television news outlets in 2016. According to the report, there was an overall decrease in coverage, dropping about 66 percent from the previous year.

News outlets that included ABC, CBS, NBC, and Fox News Sunday spent a combined total of 50 minutes discussing the issue of climate change on nightly and Sunday morning news programs in 2016.

Introducing Biochar: Climate Change Solution or Greenwash Nightmare?

Person holding biochar in hand

After years of investigating biochar, which promoters have touted as a potential climate change fix, DeSmog is releasing its findings on the science, claims, and controversy surrounding this approach to sequestering carbon. 

Biochar is the product of plant or animal products (biomass) undergoing pyrolysis, a high-heat chemical reaction, to convert the carbon-containing biomass to a stable, non-decomposing form of charcoal. Introduced to mainstream audiences in a Time Magazine article from December 2008, biochar as a climate geoengineering technology has hit a number of peaks and valleys since then. In that time, its best chances at reaching commercial scales so far have failed, according to a new DeSmog report, Biochar: Climate Change Solution or False Hope?

Biochar's failure to date is due to a number of reasons, such as the lack of scientific consensus surrounding its ability to sequester carbon indefinitely, the vast amounts of land needed to produce biochar at a large enough scale to affect the climate, and the lack of legislative or regulatory frameworks required for investment in commercial-level production. 

Biochar Lobby's Protocol Receives Blistering Peer Review, Casts Doubts on Serving as Climate Solution

For biochar's fiercest promoters, the sky's the limit for the seemingly mystical product — or at least that's been the pitch for years, ever since TIME Magazine referred to it as “black gold” in a December 2008 feature story. To some, it could do it all: pull carbon out of the atmosphere, enrich the soil, and be refined into a clean and green fuel source.

Yet a peer-reviewed study conducted by the American Carbon Registry (ACR) analyzing the science bolstering the biochar lobby's business plan calls all of these claims into question. Released in March 2015, the review concluded that “the scientific literature does not provide sufficient evidence of the stability of soil carbon sequestration in fields.”

Biochar: A Geoengineering 'Shock Doctrine'

Biochar may be many things, such as a crop yield improvement tool and reclamation device for damaged land. But a climate change panacea, DeSmog's investigation has shown, is probably not among them.

Despite a lack of scientific proof supporting biochar as a long-term solution to sequestering carbon, a niche but fervent group has continued to push the so-called “black gold” to combat today's ever-worsening climate change crisis. The push continued despite the American Carbon Registry rejecting the biochar lobby's carbon sequestration business protocol, after a peer review found its underlying science lacked sufficient rigor.

Upon failing the scientific peer review, funding levels dropped for the main biochar advocacy group, International Biochar Initiative (IBI). This means for now, on a macro-level, biochar has hit a stand still.

What The Oilsands Sell-Off Actually Means

Oilsands trucks

The last few months have been marked by some massive shifts in the oilsands.

In December, there was the $830 million Statoil sale to Athabasca Oil, followed in January and February by the writing down of billions of barrels of reserves by Imperial Oil, ConocoPhillips and ExxonMobil.

On March 9, Shell sold a majority of its oilsands assets to Canadian Natural Resources Limited (CNRL) in a huge $7.25 billion sale, while Marathon Oil split its Canadian subsidiary between Shell and CNRL for a total of $2.5 billion.

The question is: why are all of these companies selling their oilsands assets? While some celebrate the moves as successes for the climate movement, others blame the Alberta NDP for the exodus of internationals.

Tweet: Experts say #oilsands sell-off has more to do w/ a broader shift that’s made oilsands uneconomical http://bit.ly/2nK3zyQ #ableg #cdnpoliBut experts say the reality has more to do with a broader economic shift that’s made oilsands uneconomical — for the time being at least.

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