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John Upton's Posts


Bid adieu to South Carolina’s drowning shorelines

Cape Romain National Wildlife Refuge
Frank Kehren

About 1,200 acres of land have disappeared from Bulls Island and three nearby islands along the South Carolina coast since the 1990s -- lost to rising seas and the eroding effects of powerful storms.

The erosion problems at the barrier islands, which are part of Cape Romain National Wildlife Refuge, are so severe that U.S. Interior Department secretary Sally Jewell visited them last week.

Read more: Climate & Energy


New Zealand rejects climate refugee asylum bid

Australian Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade

New Zealand will pack up members of a Kiribati family and send them back to their drowning island rather than grant them refuge.

That's thanks to a ruling by New Zealand's High Court, which rejected Ioane Teitiota's historic bid for aslyum. Attorneys had argued that Teitiota and his family shouldn't be forced to return to an island that is frequently flooding as seas rise, inundating farms and contaminating drinking water supplies. The BBC reports on the ruling:


Climate negotiators are like Nazis, says this helpful, industry-funded group

Barbed wire at Auschwitz
Mario Agati

Meet the Committee for a Constructive Tomorrow. There must have been some kind of mixup when the group's name was registered -- it's not actually a committee for a constructive tomorrow. It's a $3 million-a-year climate-denying group funded by the likes of ExxonMobil to try to convince the world that climate change is no big deal. (Its latest "special report" extolls the virtues of pumping more carbon dioxide, a.k.a. "the gas of life," into the atmosphere.)

So, that's a bit confusing.


Wind energy company fined $1 million over bird deaths

A golden eagle

The wildlife-killing honeymoon is over for the fast-growing wind energy industry.

Wind turbines are working wonders for America's renewable energy blitz. But a nasty environmental side effect is the heavy toll they can take on birds and bats, hundreds of thousands of which are killed every year after colliding with turbines' spinning blades. The Obama administration has been criticized for turning a blind eye to such environmental crimes, but the recent settling of a federal case suggests that the eye is blind no more.

Duke Energy has agreed to pay $1 million for killing 163 eagles, hawks, blackbirds, larks, wrens, sparrows, and other protected bird species at two wind farms it operates in Wyoming -- violations of the 95-year old Migratory Bird Treaty Act. Of those birds, 14 were golden eagles.


Activist cited for animal cruelty because she filmed animal cruelty


The nonprofit Compassion Over Killing recently released videos of newborn calves being horribly abused by workers at the Quanah Cattle Co. in Kersey, Colo. Within a couple of days, three workers were cited for animal cruelty -- a misdemeanor. The men, who explained to investigators that they hadn't been properly trained to not be cruel to calves, were dismissed from their jobs.

Props are in order for the activist who took a job at the cattle company and covertly filmed the abuses. But that's not how the local sheriff sees things. In an extraordinary attack against animal activism, the activist has been cited for the same crime as the cattle handlers. From a press release [PDF] issued Friday by Weld County Sheriff John Cooke:

During her employment at Quanah, [Taylor] Radig compiled many hours of animal abuse footage that was collected on an “as needed basis” The video footage was eventually provided to law enforcement by representatives of Compassion Over Killing approximately 2 months after Radig’s employment ended with Quanah Cattle Company. ...

Radig’s failure to report the alleged abuse of the animals in a timely manner adheres to the definition of acting with negligence and substantiates the charge Animal Cruelty.

Read more: Food, Politics


Climate change will make the Arctic a new battleground. Here’s how America will fight

Shipping in the Arctic is increasing

The Arctic is melting, so the U.S. is rolling up there with its guns and ammo.

U.S. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel laid out the Pentagon's first-ever Arctic strategy -- a military strategy designed to keep the fast-melting region peaceful and clean as it is plundered by drillers and traversed by shippers. From his speech on Friday [PDF]:

Climate change is shifting the landscape in the Arctic more rapidly than anywhere else in the world. While the Arctic temperature rise is relatively small in absolute terms, its effects are significant – transforming what was a frozen desert into an evolving navigable ocean, giving rise to an unprecedented level of human activity. Traffic in the Northern Sea Route is reportedly expected to increase tenfold this year compared to last year. ...

With Arctic sea routes starting to see more activities like tourism and commercial shipping, the risk of accidents increases. Migrating fish stocks will draw fishermen to new areas, challenging existing management plans. And while there will be more potential for tapping what may be as much as a quarter of the planet’s undiscovered oil and gas, a flood of interest in energy exploration has the potential to heighten tensions over other issues – even though most projected oil and gas reserves in the region are located within undisputed exclusive economic zones.

Despite potential challenges, these developments create the opportunity for nations to work together through coalitions of common interest, as both Arctic and non-Arctic nations begin to lay out their strategies and positions on the future of the region.


Confirmed: Climate coverage fell after New York Times killed environment desk

A cat on the New York Times
Ralph Daily

The New York Times rang in the new year by disbanding its environment desk. Then in March it pulled the plug on its Green blog.

In doublespeak that would make any Times journalist scoff, newspaper management claimed at the time that the changes were being made in an effort to improve environmental coverage. "We have not lost any desire for environmental coverage," the paper's managing editor for news operations told Inside Climate News in January. "This is purely a structural matter."

By killing the environment desk, other desks would take a heightened interest in such wonky issues as national climate policy, greenhouse gas emissions metrics, and adaptation challenges in the Philippines. At least, that was the idea -- taking environmental coverage out of its "silo." (That, and saving money.)

Read more: Climate & Energy


As Warsaw climate talks end, scraps of good news in a mess of bad


The latest round of U.N. climate talks extended the worldwide drought on climate-fighting leadership. Things were going so badly on Thursday that many of the world's biggest environmental groups stormed out in frustration.

But late during the two weeks of negotiations in Warsaw, Poland, known as COP19, which ended Saturday, a few drops of refreshing news splashed down. Here's a full rundown.

The big news

In 2015, each of the planet's nations will offer a proposal for contributing to a reduction in worldwide greenhouse gas emissions. This agreement didn't come until Saturday night, a day after the talks were supposed to have ended. The AP reported that the "modest deal" averted "a last-minute breakdown."


Study reveals how badly frackers lie about jobs


The fracking industry wouldn't lie, would it? But how else to explain the massive discrepancies between the number of jobs that it claims to create and the number of jobs that it actually creates? Perhaps it's just confused about what's going on at its own operations.

Whatever the reason, the gulf between fracking propaganda and reality has been laid bare in a new report led by the Multi-State Shale Research Collaborative, a watchdog group that studies employment trends, economic development, and community impacts associated with fracking and proposed fracking in New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Virginia, and West Virginia.

"Industry supporters have exaggerated the jobs impact in order to minimize or avoid altogether taxation, regulation, and even careful examination of shale drilling," Frank Mauro, one of the authors of the report, told the Rochester Democrat and Chronicle.


This Ohio lawmaker thinks you’re an enviro-socialist rent-seeker

Bill Seitz
Ohio Senate
What did he just call you?

The Koch-backed American Legislative Exchange Council has been failing miserably in its nationwide push to roll back states' renewable electricity standards. But that isn't stopping Ohio state Sen. Bill Seitz (R) from persisting in trying to undermine the renewable energy rules in his state.

Seitz recently introduced legislation that would water down five-year-old state rules requiring utilities in Ohio to sell renewable power and invest in energy-efficiency measures. One of his bill's provisions would revoke a rule requiring half of renewable energy sold by utilities to be generated within the state, but that proved extremely controversial, so he says he's about to release an amended version of the bill that would delay instead of revoke that rule.

If you still don't dig Seitz's legislation, even after he's gone to all the trouble of amending it, well, then he has some strong and odd words for you. From The Columbus Dispatch:

Opponents say the bill is a giveaway to electric utilities and large businesses at the expense of the state’s “green” economy.

Seitz described the bill’s opponents as “the usual suspects,” a group that he said includes “enviro-socialist rent-seekers” who depend on government mandates, while he said its supporters include a wide array of businesses and labor groups.

Hey, that's some intelligent discourse! But guess what, Seitz, you're behind the times, even by right-winger standards.