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Obama takes his boldest step ever to fight climate change

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How 9 major papers deal with climate-denying letters

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If you've looked through the letters sections of U.S. newspapers, you've probably read that human-caused global warming is a "hoax" and a "myth." You've also likely read about how "mankind cannot change the earth's climate" and how the carbon dioxide we release isn't a "significant factor" driving global temperatures.

But recently, the Los Angeles Times took a stand against this type of misinformation. Paul Thornton, the paper's letters editor, wrote that he doesn't print letters asserting that "there's no sign humans have caused climate change." Why? Because, he wrote, such a statement is a factual inaccuracy, and "I do my best to keep errors of fact off the letters page." He cited the U.N. Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change's (IPCC) recent statement that scientists are at least 95 percent certain humans are causing global warming.

Does this mean the Times will never publish a letter skeptical of climate change? Not necessarily. Thornton told Climate Desk that he evaluates all letters on "a case-by-case basis" and that he would consider running one from a climate scientist with "impeccable credentials" who disagreed with the scientific consensus. But he says those letters are unusual. "I don't get a lot of nuance from people who question the science on climate change," he explains. Rather, he says, letters frequently portray climate change as a "hoax" or a "liberal conspiracy."

Read more: Climate & Energy

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What’s really going on with Arctic sea ice?

Scientists announced Friday that Arctic sea ice has officially reached its minimum extent for the summer, shrinking to 5.1 million square kilometers. That's significantly higher than last year's record low of just over 3.4 million square kilometers, a fact that has led conservative news outlets and even members of Congress to suggest that worries about global warming and melting ice are overstated.

But as astronomer and Slate writer Phil Plait explains in this video, these claims are "incredibly misleading."

Read more: Climate & Energy

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How energy efficient is your city?

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Jaeah Lee
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Does your city have a plan to cut greenhouse gas emissions dramatically? Is it seeking to reduce car use through bikeshare programs and public transit subsidies? Does it partner with utility companies to help small businesses and homeowners save energy? And does it lobby for statewide energy-efficiency legislation?

Those are just a few of the policies that have made Boston the top-ranked city for energy efficiency, according to a new report from the American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy. Portland, Ore., placed second, followed by New York, San Francisco, and Seattle.

Read more: Climate & Energy

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7 more national parks threatened by fire

California's massive Rim Fire has now charred more than 192,000 acres, including 45,000 acres in Yosemite National Park. But Yosemite isn't the only national park facing the threat of wildfires. Across the Western United States, rising temperaturespast fire suppression policies, and invasive species are increasing the fire risk -- meaning some of country's greatest natural treasures could one day go up in smoke.

Here are seven beautiful parks where the danger is very real.

Yellowstone and Grand Teton national parks

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Yellowstone National Park.

America's first national park is also one of the most threatened by fire. Anthony Westerling, a wildfire expert at the University of California-Merced's School of Engineering, says that large blazes were once relatively infrequent in the northern Rocky Mountains but that climate change could dramatically increase fire activity in the Yellowstone area.

In 2011, Westerling and his colleagues found [PDF] that continued warming "could completely transform" fire activity in the greater Yellowstone ecosystem, which includes the Yellowstone and Grand Teton parks. In fact, by the middle of this century, both the frequency of fires and the area burned could be greater than at any time in the past 10,000 years. The researchers concluded that these changes would result in a "real likelihood of Yellowstone's forests being converted to nonforest vegetation during the mid-21st century" because new trees wouldn't have a chance to grow between the increasingly frequent fires.

Sequoia and Kings Canyon national parks

Read more: Climate & Energy

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Defense contractor: Climate change could create “business opportunities”

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U.S. Navy

Of all the business opportunities presented by global warming, Raytheon Company may have found one of the most alarming. The Massachusetts-based defense contractor -- which makes everything from communications systems to Tomahawk missiles -- thinks that future "security concerns" caused by climate change could mean expanded sales of its military products.

Raytheon, it should be noted, isn't exactly gunning for catastrophic global warming. Quite the opposite, in fact: In February, the company received a "Climate Leadership Award" from the EPA for publicly reporting and aggressively reducing its greenhouse gas emissions. It's working on renewable energy technologies. And it has publicly warned of significant climate change-related risks to its business -- from things like hurricanes, floods, droughts, and forest fires.

So it's particularly striking that these very same climate-induced disasters could also have a financial upside for Raytheon. Like many other companies, Raytheon regularly submits information to the nonprofit Carbon Disclosure Project about its carbon reduction efforts and how climate change could affect its business. In response to a question about climate-related opportunities, Raytheon wrote [reg. req.] last year that "expanded business opportunities are likely to arise as consumer behaviour and needs change in response to climate change."

What kind of business opportunities? Raytheon cites its renewable energy technologies, weather-prediction products, and emergency response equipment for natural disasters. But the company also expects to see "demand for its military products and services as security concerns may arise as results of droughts, floods, and storm events occur as a result of climate change."