Ashley Braun

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Ashley Braun is a Seattle-based freelance science and environmental journalist. She works as a deputy editor for DeSmogBlog.com and is a contributing science writer for Natural History Magazine. She has written for Discover Magazine, Popular Science online, Hakai MagazineEarth Touch NewsGrist.org, and OnEarth.org. She also fact-checks for Discover Magazine.

Find more of her writing at ashleybraun.com/writing and follow her on Twitter at @ashleybraun.

Meeting Paris Goals Means Dealing with Climate Impacts of Eating Meat

beef cattle in feedlot

Environmental groups place a lot of attention on trying to stop new oil, gas, and coal development since current fossil fuel projects would likely already blow us past the less-than 2°C upper limit for warming laid out in the 2015 Paris Climate Agreement. In fact, there’s a whole movement, known as “Keep It in the Ground,” predicated on this idea.

But when faced with a resurgence of support for fossil fuels from the White House, perhaps just as important is talking about how to “Keep It in the Cow,” according to some reports. Right now, experts predict agriculture is set to eat up half the greenhouse gas emissions the world can release by 2050 and still stay below 2°C (3.6°F) of warming.

That is, unless the world takes a big bite out of its meat consumption, especially from cattle and other livestock that chew their cud, say researchers at Chalmers University of Technology in Sweden. Raising these ruminants produces a lot of methane, a much more potent but shorter-lived greenhouse gas than carbon dioxide.

Tillerson Scraps US Climate Envoy Position Ahead of UN Talks

Pershing

With the next round of United Nations climate talks scheduled for November, eyes will be trained on how the United States chooses to engage — or not — now that President Donald Trump is withdrawing the country from the landmark Paris Climate Agreement. Yesterday, Secretary of State and former ExxonMobil CEO Rex Tillerson indicated that this process will not happen through the State Department’s Special Envoy for Climate Change, because, well, he’s scrapping the position.

In a letter to Senate Foreign Relations chair Bob Corker (R-TN), Tillerson wrote, “I believe that the Department will be able to better execute its mission by integrating certain envoys and special representative offices within the regional and functional bureaus, and eliminating those that have accomplished or outlived their original purpose.”

In First 6 Months Under Trump, Polluters Already Paying Lower Fines to EPA

EPA flag in front of headquarters

It hasn't taken long for Donald Trump to make his mark (well, many marks) on the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). In the first six months in office, his EPA under Scott Pruitt has already seen a precipitous drop in enforcement for violators of major environmental laws, such as the Clean Air Act and Clean Water Act.

So far, the Trump administration has collected 60 percent less in fines for civil lawsuits against polluters on average, compared to the previous three administrations.

These Companies Plan to Expand Coal Power Worldwide by 43 Percent

Coal protesters in Victoria

In Paris in 2015, more than 195 nations committed to slowing the rise of global warming to less than 3.6°F (2°C). In 2016, renewable energy saw unprecedented growth around the world. 

Yet in 2017, more than 120 companies have plans to build new coal-fired power plants (or expand existing ones), increasing coal capacity by roughly 43 percent across the globe. That’s more than 840,000 megawatts (MW) of additional coal power. 

Some of those expansions are slated to occur in countries that don’t yet have any coal power, including Egypt and Malawi, likely locking them into at least 40 years of polluting infrastructure.

This is according to an analysis just released by the German environmental nonprofit Urgewald, which states that if all of these coal expansion plans go ahead, the resulting average rise in global temperatures would be a blazing 7.2°F (4°C).

After Los Angeles Youth Sued City for Discriminatory Drilling Practices, the Oil Industry Sued Back

Boy playing basketball at Beverly Hills High School next to a covered oil derrick

Los Angeles is a city built on oil, and even today more than a thousand derricks still pump it from the shallow reserves beneath the city. While some oil wells are camouflaged behind colorfully painted towers or bland beige structures resembling office buildings, many of them draw up crude oil in the open, surprisingly close to homes, stores, restaurants, schools, and churches. 

Every time I go to school,” 18-year-old Brandon Molina told DeSmog, “I walk by these oil drilling sites. They’re around my school. So, it’s something that I see every day.”

In LA, the number of residents living less than a mile from an oil well is in the tens of thousands. But how close you live to a drilling site may depend on the color of your skin and socioeconomic status, placing communities of color disproportionately at risk, according to a lawsuit brought by three LA youth groups against the City of LA

Why Is 'Rosie the Riveter' Being Appropriated for a War Against Climate Science?

J. Howard Miller's We Can Do It! poster that became known as Rosie the Riveter

Her image is iconic — red polka dot bandanna around her hair, blue sleeve rolled back, exposed bicep curled in a show of strength, a speech bubble declaring, “We Can Do It!”

We know her today as “Rosie the Riveter,” and she’s shown up on t-shirts, coffee cups, oven mitts, bobble-head dolls, and now, even a quarterly report of the fossil fuel industry–funded think tank, the Heartland Institute.

In its report, the Heartland Institute — infamous for its offensive 2012 billboard depicting the Unabomber as a “believer” in global warming — displays the image of Rosie over the slogan “Winning the Global Warming War.” It sits atop an article by Joseph L. Bast, Heartland's president, issuing a call to arms for “free-market advocates” against global warming. While Bast’s litany of commonly debunked arguments against the science and threat of climate change isn’t notable, Heartland’s choice of imagery is proving to be.

To me, it seems like an obscene appropriation of feminist iconography, and I find it, frankly, offensive,” Sarah Myhre, University of Washington ocean and climate scientist, told DeSmog. “And I looked for a mention of women or women’s lives and there’s no mention of women in the article whatsoever.”

Top 12 DeSmog Investigative News Stories of 2016

Protester being arrested at Dakota Access Pipeline construction site.

From fake news to phony Twitter support, 2016 was dominated by plenty of falsities surrounding climate change and energy development. DeSmog remains dedicated to uncovering this misinformation — and disinformation — clouding the national conversation on climate change.

We’ve put together a list of 12 of our most important and influential stories covering these issues from the last year.

Hundreds of Scientists and Supporters Gather to Rally Against Attacks on Science

scientists rallying

On a gray afternoon in downtown San Francisco, hundreds of scientists and supporters held a rally to “champion the role of science in society,” while the news of President-elect Donald Trump's latest cabinet appointment of a fossil fuel industry ally and climate denier, Rick Perry, reverberated through the air like the bells of a nearby church.

“As scientists, it’s not enough just to do our science,” Harvard social scientist Naomi Oreskes told the crowd. “We have to get out and explain to people why the science matters to them, to their lives, to their jobs, to their communities, to their health and well-being, and to their prosperity.”

How to Convince Your Neighbors Climate Change Is Real? Stop Calling Them Idiots, Says DeSmog Founder Jim Hoggan

James Hoggan AGU speech

Clean coal.” “Ethical oil.” How could fossil fuels that produce pollution which sickens, kills, and hospitalizes tens of thousands of Americans each year end up sounding so … desirable?

Jim Hoggan, founder of DeSmog, watched these industry-funded campaigns — and an increasingly toxic public discourse around climate change — unfold in the U.S. and Canada and wondered the same thing. 

As Hoggan told an audience of earth and climate scientists at the American Geophysical Union conference today, “These campaigns are not so much about persuasion as they are about polarization, about dividing us.”

Sheldon Whitehouse Just Delivered His 150th Senate Speech on Climate Action

Sheldon Whitehouse in the Senate.

At a time when the planet is set to see its hottest year on record (a now sadly regular phenomenon), the United States has elected to its highest office a man who denies the science of climate change and seeks to dismantle progress on the issue at home and abroad

As the rest of the world prepares to push the U.S. aside on the global climate stage and President-elect Donald Trump stocks his team of advisers with climate deniers, now more than ever the U.S. needs voices speaking up for the overwhelming science supporting strong action on climate change. 

This week, Rhode Island Senator Sheldon Whitehouse (D) was that voice, speaking up for the climate on the floor of the Senate for the 150th time.

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