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John Upton's Posts


Aussie farmers to be paid to store carbon in soil

Australian farmer
Haydyn Bromley

Climate protection is getting down and dirty Down Under.

Soil serves as a great reservoir for carbon, yet it's often overlooked in climate protection efforts. That's changing in Australia, where farmers will soon be able to earn cash for projects that store carbon in the soil -- such as tree plantings, dung beetle releases, and composting. Aussie farmers are already eligible to make money by reducing greenhouse gas pollution from livestock, manure, and rice fields.

Australia's environment minister announced Tuesday that farmers could start applying for payments for soil carbon storage in July.

Read more: Climate & Energy


Pipeline bursts, makes a big mess in Ohio nature preserve

oil spill

A ruptured oil pipeline has dumped more than 10,000 gallons of crude into a wetland area and nature preserve in southwestern Ohio. How's that for a reminder that pipelines aren't necessarily cleaner than oil trains?

The 1950s-era pipeline, owned by Sunoco Logistics, was sending oil from Texas up to refineries in Michigan. The spill was discovered Monday, but some neighbors reported smelling oil since late February.

Ohio officials are now testing air quality and drinking water, and cleanup workers are using heavy equipment to try to mop up the mess. The oil has pooled in a marsh not far from the Great Miami River. The Oak Glen Nature Preserve -- home to deer, birds, woods, and wildflowers -- has been temporarily closed.

oil spill
Oil spill in Oak Glen Nature Preserve, Ohio.
Read more: Climate & Energy


Billions of pounds of sea life die every year to feed our seafood appetite

Entangled ring seal.
A ring seal entangled in fishing equipment -- aka bycatch.

For every pound of sashimi, barbecued shrimp, or grilled sea bass that you stuff into your mouth, you're basically spitting four ounces of marine life onto the floor.

The nonprofit Oceana published a detailed report on Thursday cataloguing the egregious problem of bycatch in U.S. fisheries. Bycatch is a word that refers to the sharks, turtles, whales, non-edible fish, and other critters that are inadvertently hauled into fishing boats or caught up in the gear of fishing fleets that are pursuing more palatable and lucrative species.

Read more: Food


Global buying spree is saving solar panel manufacturers

solar panel in a shopping cart

The sun is starting to shine again on the solar-panel manufacturing industry, a year after a string of corporate collapses.

The glut of cheap solar panels that pushed manufacturing giant Suntech and others into bankruptcy is being whittled away by a worldwide surge in solar installations. The manufacturing sector's gradual return to profitability comes eight months after China announced it would go on a solar-buying spree to cash in on the oversupply of panels.


Whoa there! State lawmakers try to make oil trains safer

"beware of trains" sign

The wheels of railway safety reform may be in motion in Minnesota, but they've ground to a halt in Washington state.

Each day, an average of six trains bearing particularly incendiary fracked crude travel through Minnesota's Twin Cities, rattling the nerves of residents and lawmakers. The main worries are about potential derailments and explosions, but oil spills are also a concern, as evidenced by the recent leak of 12,000 gallons from a moving train in the state’s southeast.

On Monday, Minnesota state Rep. Frank Hornstein introduced legislation that aims to protect the state from oil-by-rail accidents. The Star Tribune reports:


White House gets geeky on climate problem

Obama with an iPad
Pete Souza / White House
"According to this, Florida is fucked."

To see how the world is changing around you, sometimes it helps to lose yourself online.

The White House is plunging into a new geeky approach to climate adaptation. It has consolidated online climate tools into a new hub,, intended to help Americans understand how weather and sea levels will continue to change in their states and even their neighborhoods.


Scientists to Americans: This climate change thing really is a big deal

global warming

One of the world's largest and most influential science organizations is launching a new campaign to cut through the noise of climate denialism and help the public understand the threat of climate change.

The American Association for the Advancement of Science kicked things off on Monday by publishing a 20-page report entitled What We Know. The gist: We know that global warming is real, risky, and demands a serious response -- "the three Rs of climate change."

“We're trying to provide a voice for the scientific community on this issue so that we can help the country, help the world move this issue forward,” AAAS CEO Alan Leshner said during a call with reporters on Tuesday morning. "If we don’t move now we are at tremendous risk for some very high impact consequences, many of which are laid out in the report."

The AAAS has also assembled a panel of a 13 leading scientists who will make public presentations and try to spread climate smarts far and wide.

Here's an explanation of those three climate Rs from the initiative's website:

Read more: Climate & Energy


Climate change could bring ancient moss back to life

Drilling for moss.
Peter Boelen
Sampling frozen moss in Antarctica.

The germs of microscopic jungles lay frozen at the poles, ready to burst into life as the ice and snow melt around them.

Deep moss banks growing on rocks and at the bottoms of lakes are defining botanical features in many cold and frigid environments. And as the poles melt, moss populations are quickly greening newly exposed earth.

But how could moss reach these remote locations? A new discovery highlights the fact that it doesn't need to. It's already there, frozen after previous warm spells and ready to resume the humble act of living.

Read more: Climate & Energy


Two-thirds of Republicans think the media exaggerates climate change

old newspapers
Do they at least believe in recycling?

Major media outlets in the U.S. are doing a piss-poor job of covering climate change. But even when they do cover it, many of their audience members don't believe them.

On Monday, Gallup released recent survey data showing that 42 percent of Americans polled believe news outlets exaggerate the seriousness of climate change.

As you might expect, there's a big partisan divide on the question. More than two-thirds of Republicans think the media exaggerates, while nearly half of Democrats believe the seriousness of climate change is actually underestimated by the media.

Read more: Climate & Energy


Alabama wetland still infested with oil, four months after train accident

Aftermath of a arain derailment in Alabama
Public Herald
Cleaning up this oily mess turned out to be hard, so it looks like the railroad pretty much gave up.

The derailment and explosion of a train passing through Alabama wetlands in November helped bring attention to the dangers of hauling oil by rail. But the mess left behind after the explosion has been largely ignored.

The Associated Press recently visited the derailment site near the town of Aliceville and found "dark, smelly crude oil still oozing into the water." Waters around the oil spill's epicenter are lined with floating booms to help prevent the spread of surface oil, but environmentalists have detected toxic chemicals from the oil flowing downstream. And questions have been raised about a decision to rebuild damaged tracks without first removing all the oil that surrounded them. Here's more from the story: