Justin Mikulka

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Justin Mikulka is a freelance writer, audio and video producer living in Trumansburg, NY.

Justin has a degree in Civil and Environmental Engineering from Cornell University.

Are ISO's Draft Guidelines on Climate Action the First Steps Toward Geoengineering?

Read time: 5 mins

In August, the French news service AFP revealed that the International Organization for Standardization (ISO) has been drafting new climate action guidelines for businesses that raise concerns about promoting geoengineering as a climate solution. 

The ISO is an industry-driven  non-governmental organization that sets international standards for products, services, and systems, giving it a powerful voice in the global business community.

With these draft ISO guidelines, which DeSmog has obtained, the ISO appears poised to provide voluntary and market-based standards to address climate change that differ in a key way from the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change and the Paris Climate Agreement. Instead of focusing on limiting global temperature rise, these guidelines argue for using radiative forcing, or the total excess heat warming Earth's atmosphere, as the metric.

Op-ed: Geoengineering Distracts From Real Climate Solutions While Giving Cover to the Fossil Fuel Industry

Read time: 9 mins
3D rendering of Earth from space

This story is part of Covering Climate Now, a global collaboration of more than 250 news outlets to strengthen coverage of the climate story.  

In 2019, I think it's safe to say that humans are capable of wreaking great and terrible changes upon Earth's systems. To name a few: acid rain, deforestation, and climate change. Reversing such problems is, on its face, quite simple. Stop releasing smog-forming pollution. Stop cutting down forests. Stop burning fossil fuels.

In some cases, humanity has risen to these challenges, and for example, greatly reduced acid rain in North America since the 1970s, 80s, and 90s. But when it comes to climate change, there's a growing chorus, often bolstered by the fossil fuel industry, who support a controversial set of approaches to mitigating global warming, not by directly addressing the primary source of the problem — continuing to combust great volumes of oil, gas, and coal — but by further inducing massive changes to planetary systems.

I'm talking about geoengineering, and specifically solar geoengineering, which seeks to lessen global warming's greenhouse effect by reflecting sunlight, and heat, back out to space.

Bernie Sanders' Plan to Phase out Nuclear Power Draws Attacks — Here's Why They're Wrong

Read time: 6 mins
Nuclear power cooling towers

Senator and Democratic presidential hopeful Bernie Sanders has released an ambitious climate proposal, one which champions of the status quo were quick to criticize. One line of attack, coming from many different sources, focuses on Sanders' plan to phase out nuclear power, but the arguments, and who is behind them, deserve a closer look.

Comment: Rail Industry Publication Attacks New York Times Over Lac-Mégantic Oil Train Tragedy

Read time: 7 mins
Lac-Megantic oil train fire

Six years after the oil train derailment and explosion in Lac-Mégantic, Quebec — which claimed 47 lives and destroyed the downtown of this small lakeside town — The New York Times reviewed what progress has been made since the disaster, with a headline that noted “Deadly Cargo Still Rides the Rails.”

However, Railway Age, the leading rail industry publication, attacked The Times' coverage in an incredibly flawed critique. The title of finance editor David Nahass's take-down is “Clickbait Journalism at The New York Times.”

In reality, both stories miss the mark on oil train safety.

How an Application for Propane Fracking Attempts to Circumvent New York’s Fracking Ban

Read time: 6 mins
Anti-fracking protesters in New York

Four years after New York announced the state was banning hydraulic fracturing (fracking), Tioga Energy Partners, LLC has filed an application with the state to frack for natural gas, but there's a catch. The company is proposing to swap propane into the industry standard mix that usually calls for water.

Environmental advocates consider this application to use liquefied petroleum gas (LPG), and specifically a propane gel, an attempt to circumvent New York's 2015 ban on fracking for fossil fuels.

Bleak Financial Outlook for US Fracking Industry

Read time: 5 mins
Drilling rig at twilight

In early 2018 when major financial publications like the Wall Street Journal were predicting a bright and profitable future for the fracking industry, DeSmog began a series detailing the failing business model of fracking shale deposits for oil and gas in America.

Over a year later, the fracking industry is having to reckon with many of the issues DeSmog highlighted, in addition to one new issue — investors are finally giving up on the industry.

Fracking's Dirty Water Problem Is Getting Much Bigger

Read time: 8 mins
Fracking and agriculture compete for land and water near Denver City, Texas. 

While fracking for oil and gas in the U.S. has contributed to record levels of fossil fuel production, a critical part of that story also involves water. An ongoing battle for this precious resource has emerged in dry areas of the U.S. where much of the oil and gas production is occurring. In addition, once the oil and gas industry is finished with the water involved in pumping out fossil fuels, disposing of or treating that toxic wastewater, known as produced water, becomes yet another problem.

These water woes represent a daunting challenge for the U.S. fracking industry, which has been a financial disaster, something even a former shale gas CEO has admitted. And its financial prospects aren't looking any rosier: The industry is facing another round of bankruptcies as producers are overwhelmed by debt they are unable to repay.

Hard Times in the Climate Denial Business for the Heartland Institute

Read time: 7 mins
Heartland Institute's climate science denial conference

Last week, the Heartland Institute was again trumpeting climate science denial at its 13th “International Conference on Climate Change” at the Trump Hotel in Washington, D.C. But by a number of measures, the Chicago-based free market think tank's science denial doesn't exactly seem to be a growing — or cohesive — movement at this point.

North Dakota, Montana Launch New Fight Over Moving Volatile Bakken Oil by Rail

Read time: 6 mins
Firefighters try to put out fires on oil train that leveled downtown Lac-Megantic, Quebec

The oil industry in North Dakota and Montana — home to the prolific Bakken Shale Formation — faces an “impossible choice.” That's according to a new petition to federal regulators from the attorneys general of North Dakota and Montana, in response to a Washington state law that aims to prevent trains hauling oil through the state from derailing and exploding.

That choice is to either remove the volatile components, such as butane, from Bakken crude oil before being loaded into rail tank cars, or send the volatile oil to other, harder-to-reach markets because — as the petition argues — removing the butane would cut into oil producers' profits, and almost 60 percent of the crude leaving North Dakota by rail goes to Washington refineries.

America’s Big Bet on Selling Fracked Gas to China and the World

Read time: 8 mins
LNG carrier ship

Liquefied natural gas (LNG) is getting a lot of attention these days, with U.S. producers making major investments in the infrastructure to produce and export LNG to China and the rest of the world for the next several decades.

That's despite LNG looking like a big bet that may not ever pay off.