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John Upton's Posts


The gas is almost greener

Here’s a new way to keep cattle burps from toasting the planet

cattle feed and climate change

Telling cows to eat more slowly and avoid cola won't do much to curb their incessant belching. But the Dutch company DSM has developed a more bovine-appropriate solution for the climate-wrecking problem of cattle gassiness.

Staff scientists and academic researchers funded by the company have developed a powder that can be mixed in with cattle feed, interfering with the microorganisms that produce methane. Newsweek reports:

Read more: Climate & Energy, Food


Tom Steyer’s latest project will help climate change’s victims

Arizona wildfires 2014
Coconino National Forest

The Climate Disaster Relief Fund won't extinguish the wildfires ravaging America's tinder-dry west, but it may help some of the victims of the fires rebuild their charred lives. And, as the fund grows in the coming years, it should help other victims of global warming.

The new fund was launched Friday with a $2 million donation from billionaire climate activist Tom Steyer and his wife Kat Taylor. It will provide grants to organizations in the U.S. that help people affected by droughts, floods, other severe weather events linked to climate change. (It's totally separate from Steyer's NextGen Climate Action super PAC, which is channeling tens of millions to support climate-friendly candidates in this year's elections.)


How do you like your state cooked?

American Southwest heating faster than rest of nation

Arizona is hot

Stick a fork in the American Southwest. The ranches there are broiled.

Separate analyses published this week both found that the region has heated up more than any other in the U.S. in recent decades as global warming's most prominent effect -- warming -- has taken hold. The first analysis came from Climate Central, which looked at summertime heat:

Read more: Climate & Energy


This is how little it costs for states to go renewable


States can boost renewable energy capacity at bargain-basement prices, a new study finds.

Federal researchers examined the 29 states where renewable portfolio standards (RPS's) have been in place for more than five years. They concluded that these standards, which require utilities to generate a certain percentage of power from clean sources, led to the development of 46,000 megawatts of renewable capacity up until 2012 -- and that they raised electricity rates by an average of less than 2 percent.

Click to embiggen.
Click to embiggen.


Chicago area off the hook from climate lawsuits

Rain in Chicago

Chicago-area residents got soaked by floods in April 2013, but at least they've now avoided getting soaked by an insurance company.

As we reported last month, the Farmers Insurance Group filed class-action lawsuits against Chicago-area municipalities, charging that they failed to prepare for flood-related impacts of climate change, which led to major flooding last year. But the company has unexpectedly dropped the suits.

“We believe our lawsuit brought important issues to the attention of the respective cities and counties, and that our policyholders' interests will be protected by the local governments going forward,” Farmers said in a statement. From the Chicago Tribune:


D'oh, Canada

Canadian meteorologists barred from talking about climate change

Stephen Harper
Shutterstock / Nic Neufeld

In the U.S., President Obama recently invited meteorologists to the White House to talk about climate change. In Canada, federal government meteorologists are banned from talking about climate change.

But maybe that shouldn't be a surprise in a country that's become a rogue petrostate.

Environment Canada, the national environmental agency that also serves as the government's weather service, does not allow its weather forecasters to discuss climate change publicly. "Weather Preparedness Meteorologists are experts in their field of severe weather and speak to this subject," an agency spokesperson told journalist Mike De Souza. "Questions about climate change or long-term trends would be directed to a climatologist or other applicable authority.” Here's more from a blog post by De Souza:


Even Republican voters support Obama’s new climate rule

Republicans not listening to leaders on climate

Republican politicians are railing against President Obama's new draft power-plant pollution rules, portraying them as job killers that will leave the economy in unrecognizable tatters.

But their rank-and-file voters haven't yet gotten the message.

The latest Washington Post-ABC News poll, conducted from Thursday to Sunday as the media was ramping up coverage ahead of the rules' release, included this question: “Do you think the federal government should or should not limit the release of greenhouse gases from existing power plants in an effort to reduce global warming?”

Not only did 70 percent of all respondents reply in the affirmative, but more than twice as many Republicans said "yes" as said "no." Check it out:


Did China just outdo Obama on climate action?

China power plant

Just one day after the Obama administration proposed new power plant CO2 rules, alerting the world that the U.S. is finally starting to take climate action seriously, the planet's other climate-polluting giant is making similar headlines. China is considering imposing an absolute cap on carbon emissions in 2016, a senior government official announced in Beijing on Tuesday.

Few specific details are available, but a cap on emissions, which would likely incorporate the country's nascent carbon-trading system, is being seen as a potentially major step in curbing the nation's climate impacts.

"We hope to implement this in the 13th five-year plan, but the plan has not been fixed yet, so it isn’t government policy yet," Professor He Jiankun, vice-chairman of China’s National Experts Panel on Climate Change, told the Financial Times following the announcement. "This is our experts’ advice and suggestion."


Cow causes oily spill; energy companies ruminate over whether to cow-proof facilities


What did the cow say to the tank valve holding back barrels of fossil fuel waste?


Last week, an oblivious cow in North Dakota triggered the release of 20 barrels of natural gas condensate, a byproduct of natural gas drilling:


quel soulagement

World cautiously relieved by Obama’s climate announcement

world relieved by Obama climate news

Sighs of relief are being heard around the world as Obama proposes new domestic climate regulations.

The U.S. has long obstructed global efforts to rein in climate change, perhaps most notably by refusing to ratify the Kyoto Protocol. Now the international community is hoping to craft a new global climate deal next year in Paris, and many see Obama's rules as a good sign.

“I fully expect action by the United States to spur others in taking concrete action -- action that can set the stage and put in place the pathways that can bend the global emissions curve down in order to keep world-wide temperature rise under 2 degrees Celsius this century," said Christiana Figueres, executive secretary of the U.N. Framework Convention on Climate Change, which guides international climate negotiations.

"The decision by President Obama to launch plans to more tightly regulate emissions from power plants will send a good signal to nations everywhere that one of the world’s biggest emitters is taking the future of the planet and its people seriously," she said.