By Janet Larsen Half the world’s pigs—more than 470 million of them—live in China, but even that may not be enough to satisfy the growing Chinese appetite for meat. While meat consumption in the United States has fallen more than 5 percent since peaking in 2007, Chinese meat consumption has leapt 18 percent, from 64 million to 78 million (metric) tons—twice as much as in the United States. Pork is by far China’s favorite protein, which helps to explain the late-May announced acquisition of U.S. meat giant Smithfield Foods Inc., the world’s leading pork producer, by the Chinese company Shuanghui …
A week after word got out that unapproved GMO wheat was found growing on an Oregon farm, Monsanto has announced the results of an internal investigation into the mysterious outbreak. The results can be summarized thusly: “Nothing is wrong at our end and everybody's crops are safe. Maybe our opponents planted our freak wheat to try to hurt us.”
A genetically modified test strain of wheat that emerged to the surprise of an Oregon farmer last month was likely the result of an accident or deliberate mixing of seeds, the company that developed it said Wednesday.
Representatives for Monsanto Co. said during a conference call Wednesday that the emergence of the genetically modified strain was an isolated occurrence. It has tested the original wheat stock and found it clean, the company said.
Sabotage is a possibility, said Robb Fraley, Monsanto chief technology officer.
“We’re considering all options and that’s certainly one of the options,” Fraley said.
Here are a few of the alarming findings from the paper’s investigation into coal handling at the facility:
“There’s a certain amount of coal that sticks to the belts, and as it makes its run underneath the belt back it falls off … There’s coal just falling everywhere … Everywhere there’s a corner it just builds and falls off and jams belts, and then it falls into the ocean,” a reliable source, who has authorized access to the site, told The Northern View.
Witnesses claim the dock’s containment system is laughable, consisting of pieces of wood and tarps that allow coal to either slip through the dock’s metal floor grating or through the open spaces along the rail of the dock.
Check out the most detailed map of a continent never truly seen by human eyes: the de-iced surface of Antarctica. By virtually peeling back the frozen ice sheet and studying the land beneath, researchers can get a better sense of how the southern pole of our planet could react to climate change.
Bedmap2 was created by the British Antarctic Survey, and used decades of data to produce this detailed view of the frozen continent. NASA’s contribution to the dataset includes surface measurements from its now-retired orbiting Ice, Cloud, and Land Elevation Satellite, and results from several years of flyovers by specialized aircraft that collected radar and other data measuring changes in the thickness of sea ice, glaciers, and ice sheets as part of Operation IceBridge.
If you’re a lover of outdoor urban activity, might we suggest a move to Minneapolis? Not only does the burg have a bike culture to rival Portland’s, it boasts the best park system of any major U.S. city, according to rankings released Wednesday by the Trust for Public Land in its second-annual ParkScore Index.
Minneapolis didn’t appear on last year’s inaugural ParkScore list, which ranked only the 40 largest U.S. cities (Minneapolis comes in at No. 48). But this year, TPL looked at 50 cities, and Minneapolis took top honors, bumping San Francisco, last year’s winner, to third place. New York City moved up from third to second.
Here's the top 10:
New York City
Sacramento & San Francisco & Boston (a three-way tie)
If you follow the renewable energy industry and haven’t been sleeping, then you’ve probably heard about one of the few pieces of federal legislation purported to help clean energy that’s actually moving: expanding Master Limited Partnerships (MLPs) to cover wind and solar energy. (H.R.1696) This is not a good thing. MLPs originated in 1986, when Congress decided that to allow certain businesses (oil and gas pipelines) to avoid paying corporate income tax. These partnerships function a lot like publicly traded corporations, with publicly traded stock, but don’t pay income taxes. Most folks who’ve touted expanding MLPs to include renewable energy …
More than 40 national governments and 20 states or other "sub-national" governments are now charging polluters for emitting greenhouse gases, or plan to start in the coming years, according to a new report from the World Bank.
The U.S., of course, is not one of the countries with a national cap-and-trade plan or carbon tax, but California and parts of New England are pushing ahead despite Congress' refusal to act.
All in all, about 7 percent of the world's greenhouse gases are now priced -- the equivalent of 3.3 gigatons of carbon dioxide out of the total 50 gigatons emitted annually worldwide. Not a lot. But, says the report, "If China, Brazil, Chile, and the other emerging economies eyeing these mechanisms are included, carbon pricing mechanisms could reach countries emitting 24 [gigatons of CO2 equivalent] per year, or almost half of the total global emissions."
Ever since he was a kid, Stu Ostro has been, in his own words, "obsessed with the weather." One day when he was around 11, he recalls, a lighting strike hit the house across the street in Somerville, N.J., while he and his brother watched from their porch -- sending fire trucks scrambling, and the French fries that Ostro was eating "went flying." Back then, Ostro's weather fascination manifested as a "phobia" of thunder and lightning; nowadays, as a senior meteorologist at the Weather Channel and head of its team of tornado and hurricane specialists, his obsession takes a rather different form. Try perusing his 1,072-slide-long and ever-growing PowerPoint [PDF] on extreme and unusual weather phenomena -- and how they may relate to climate change -- and you'll get some sense of it.
Ostro will speak at this Thursday's Climate Desk Live on "The Alarming Science Behind Climate Change's Increasingly Wild Weather" alongside Rutgers University climate scientist Jennifer Francis, whose work on how the warming of the Arctic is driving wacky weather complements his own theorizing. But Ostro didn't always fit this billing, because he didn't always buy into fears about global warming. As he puts it, he used to be a "vehement skeptic … not only about a human role in global warming, but also the idea that there was anything unusual about any weather we had been seeing."
Indeed, circa 1999 Ostro could be found in USA Weekend expressing uncertainty as to "whether humans are contributing to climate change or not." In this, Ostro channeled the views of many of his fellow TV weather forecasters, who have long nourished a skeptical streak, as a group, towards the notion of human-caused climate change.
"A lot of them are still where I was at," Ostro explains.
The Obama administration just made a fairly significant move on climate change, and it flew right under the radar.
To explain, let me back up a bit.
How much damage does a ton of carbon emissions do? That dollar figure is known as the "social cost of carbon" and it is, as economist Frank Ackerman put it a few yeas ago, "the most important number you've never heard of."
Why does it matter? Because the U.S. government uses it to assess the costs and benefits of regulatory action. The higher the social cost of carbon, the more action can be economically justified.
Specifically, regulations are assessed by the White House Office of Management and Budget (OMB). (There are reasons to lament that process, but put them aside for now.) The OMB runs cost-benefit analysis on every big regulation that issues from the executive branch.
One thing Obama doesn't get enough credit for is the Interagency Working Group on Social Cost of Carbon, which his administration convened to establish a social cost of carbon that OMB and other agencies can use in assessing carbon-related regulations. In 2010, the working group released its report [PDF]. While there's no single, final number given as a social cost of carbon -- there's a range, depending on discount rates and estimates of climate impacts -- the number "in the middle," the one that became the headline, was $24. (That's for 2015; it rises year on year.)
While environmental groups have been pouring energy into opposing the Keystone XL pipeline, a less talked-about fight in Alaska is bubbling over into what The Washington Post says “may be one of the most important environmental decisions of President Obama’s second term”: whether to allow construction of a massive mine near Bristol Bay, one of the most productive salmon fisheries in the world (supplying half the world’s sockeye salmon) and home to potentially vast reserves of gold and copper.
The focus of this fervor is buried near the headwaters of the Kvichak and Nushagak rivers, where massive deposits of gold, copper and molybdenum lie in a watershed that feeds into Bristol Bay. The Pebble Partnership, which owns the land, wants to dig an open-pit mine that could stretch for miles and would need roads, a power plant and a port.
In a 2006 feature, Mother Jones elaborated on what that would look like:
The proposed Pebble Mine complex would cover some 14 square miles. It would require the construction of a deepwater shipping port in Cook Inlet ... and an industrial road—skirting Lake Clark National Park and Preserve and traversing countless salmon-spawning streams—to reach the new harbor. At the site's heart would be an open pit measuring two miles long, a mile and a half wide, and 1,700 feet deep. Over its 30- to 40-year lifetime, the Pebble pit is projected to produce more than 42.1 million ounces of gold, 24.7 billion pounds of copper, 1.3 billion pounds of molybdenum—and 3 billion tons of waste.
Not only would the Pebble mine be North America’s biggest, it would be 20 times larger than all other mines in Alaska combined. And the companies behind it aren't even American. The Pebble Partnership is a joint venture between Anglo American, a British mining firm currently facing a class-action lawsuit from South African gold miners, and Northern Dynasty, a Canadian company whose interest in the Pebble Partnership is its principal asset.
Opposition to the project has united the fishing industry and local tribes, two groups often at odds. Mother Jones said the Kvichak is “known to anglers as the most abundant salmon stream on the planet and as home to some of Alaska's most gargantuan rainbow trout.” For native communities, the hunting and fishing supported by this watershed provide a crucial source of food and a link to traditions.