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John Upton's Posts


We’re massively underestimating climate costs, experts warn

climate costs

Crank up global temperatures by 30-odd degrees and humans could plummet toward extinction. Yet one of the world's most cited economic models on climate-change effects projects just a 50 percent reduction in global economic output if temperatures rise that much.

That's an example of how substantially we've been underestimating the costs of climate change. So argues a new peer-reviewed paper in The Economic Journal written by Nicholas Stern, author the famed 2006 Stern report on the economics of climate change, and Simon Dietz, both of the Grantham Research Institute on Climate Change and the Environment.

And, in part because we're relying on an outdated economic model, carbon-trading programs are woefully undercharging polluters for their climate-wrecking emissions.

Read more: Climate & Energy


India blames environmental activists for its economic problems

Greenpeace in India
Salvatore Barbera

India's economy is growing, but not as quickly as some pundits had forecast. You might guess that rampant corruption was curbing the country's economic potential. Or maybe you would put some blame on worsening heat waves, which have been knocking out electrical grids. Or perhaps the crippling health effects of pollution from coal power plants?

Well, we've got some surprising news for you from India's intelligence agency: Environmental activists like you must shoulder some of the blame. Your peeps in India have been accused of reducing the nation's GDP by 2 to 3 percent every year. Reuters reports:


don't frack me, bro

Yes, frackers can forcibly drill your land, even if you don’t want them to

filthy pool
Jump in. You have no choice.

Forced pooling isn't some kind of college pool party that jocks compel nerds to attend, resulting in wacky hijinks. It's a grim legal tool, dating back nearly a century in some states, that allows drillers to tap the fossil fuels beneath a reluctant landowner's property -- if enough of their neighbors sell their drilling rights. The philosophy of such laws is that subterranean pools of oil and natural gas pay no heed to property lines.

As hydraulic fracturing takes grip across the nation, frackers are taking advantage of state laws that were drafted to allow forced pooling for conventional gas and oil drilling.

Newsweek took a trip to Marcellus Shale country and interviewed Suzanne Matteo and Bob Svetlak, two of the residents who've been stymieing drilling plans by refusing to sign agreements that would allow Hilcorp to frack their land in Pulaski Township, Penn., in exchange for per-acre payments and royalties:


Genetically engineered lawsuit

Big Food is already suing Vermont over its GMO labeling law

food law

A Vermont law that will require manufacturers to label foods containing genetically modified ingredients won't take effect for another two years, but industry groups are already attacking it in court.

Gov. Peter Shumlin (D) signed the bill on May 8, and a lawsuit against it landed on Thursday of this week, just 35 days later.

The suit was filed by the Grocery Manufacturers Association, Snack Food Association, International Dairy Foods Association, and National Association of Manufacturers. It argues that the labeling law exceeds Vermont's authority under the U.S. Constitution, and that it would be "difficult, if not impossible," for the groups' members to comply with the requirements by the mid-2016 deadline.


It's open season

Tesla abandons its patents, aims to spur electric-car revolution

tesla car

Tesla, maker of the most critically acclaimed car ever, is going open source.

Every patent that the Silicon Valley electric-car pioneer has ever secured will now be available for any company in the world to use, free of charge.

"Tesla will not initiate patent lawsuits against anyone who, in good faith, wants to use our technology," Tesla CEO Elon Musk wrote in a blog post published Thursday. "Our true competition is not the small trickle of non-Tesla electric cars being produced, but rather the enormous flood of gasoline cars pouring out of the world’s factories every day."

"Given that annual new vehicle production is approaching 100 million per year and the global fleet is approximately 2 billion cars, it is impossible for Tesla to build electric cars fast enough to address the carbon crisis. ... We believe that Tesla, other companies making electric cars, and the world would all benefit from a common, rapidly-evolving technology platform," he wrote.


All wet

Your clothes dryer is a huge energy waster


Buy a new major appliance today and it'll be a lot more energy efficient than what was on the market 20 or 30 years ago. Unless, that is, you're buying a dryer.

The Natural Resources Defense Council on Thursday put out an issue brief and call to action regarding money- and energy-wasting clothes dryers. While manufacturers have boosted the efficiency of washing machines, refrigerators, and other appliances in recent decades, their enthusiasm for doing the same thing for dryers has been damp at best. Dryers remain so energy hungry that even a new one can consume as much electricity as an efficient new clothes washer, refrigerator, and dishwasher combined.


Ah shit

Climate change could flood your streets with doo-doo and toxic waste

Stefan Klocek
Oakland and surrounds.

Rising seas and ferocious storms linked to global warming won't just bring water to our doorsteps. In some cities, it will deliver a witches' brew of sewage from low-lying drains and toxic waste from Superfund sites and industrial areas.

That's because when seas rise, they don't just top over shorelines. They can burble up through waterfront infrastructure like sewage systems. New America Media reports from Oakland, a port city built along San Francisco Bay -- an estuary that's vulnerable to the rises in the Pacific Ocean on the other side of the Golden Gate Bridge:

Read more: Cities, Climate & Energy


radio static

Stop lying! Enviros are fed up with false ads about Obama’s power plant rules

radio ads

Even as dishonest fossil-fuel propaganda goes, a National Mining Association advertisement being played in Arkansas, Colorado, Indiana, Michigan, and Pennsylvania is a true doozy.

Environmental groups have been calling on radio stations to stop playing the ad, which claims that electricity rates have nearly doubled because of the Obama administration's proposed CO2 regulations for new power plants -- which would be pretty extraordinary, given that the rules haven't even taken effect yet. Enviros say playing the ad violates Federal Communications Commission guidelines on honesty in advertising.

Yet 23 radio stations continue to air the ad, prompting the environmentalists to take their complaint on Wednesday to the FCC commissioners. Here are highlights from a letter cosigned by the Natural Resources Defense Council,, Environmental Defense Fund, Greenpeace USA, and 22 other groups:


Here’s how California could fix its drought-time water woes

hosing with water

The drought that's ravaging every square inch of California is nature's doing, albeit arguably juiced by climate change. But water shortfalls, which are prompting the government to suspend environmental protections for rivers and wildlife, are largely the result of inefficient use of water, and that's a problem that can be solved.

That's the message of a new report by the Pacific Institute and the Natural Resources Defense Council. The nonprofits looked at the practices of California's farmers and cities, and at statewide water-recycling and stormwater-capture practices, and identified improvements that could provide 10.8 million to 13.7 million acre-feet of additional fresh water every year. That's more water than is used by all the cities in the state every year.

"The good news is that solutions to our water problem exist," the report states. "They are being implemented to varying degrees around the state with good results, but a lot more can be done."

Here's an overview of the report findings, in handy infographic form:


The beading edge

Illinois becomes first state to ban lake-fouling microbeads

products with microbeads

The plastic microbeads found in many facewash, toothpaste, and other personal-care products are making a real mess. The exfoliating beads wash down bathroom drains, into sewers, through water treatment plants, into lakes and oceans, and into the food chain. Underwater layers of microbeads are particularly prevalent in the Great Lakes, which helps explain why New York state lawmakers moved to ban the beads this past winter, prompting Californian politicians to follow suit.

But New York and California have been bested in the race to pinch out the microbead problem by Illinois, which rings the southwestern portion of Lake Michigan. The Chicago Tribune reports: