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John Upton's Posts


adapt or be sued

Get ready for a whole new kind of climate change lawsuit

Chicago floods 2013
A very wet Chicago-area neighborhood in April 2013. Now Chicago might get soaked in another way.

Leaders of Chicago-area municipalities will have to explain in court why they didn't do a better job of bracing for the types of floods that climate change is starting to bring down upon us. If they fail to make their case, then taxpayers could be on the hook for flood-related costs that would normally be borne by insurers.

Farmers Insurance recently filed nine class-action lawsuits on behalf of itself, other insurers, and customers in the wake of heavy flooding a year ago. The damaging floods followed the type of climate changejuiced rainstorms that Chicago's mayoral advisors had concluded would pose growing threats to the city's unusual flood control system. Reuters explains:


Battle of the divulge

First responders vs. frackers: Who will win?


First responders in North Carolina might one day get to know which chemicals are involved in the fracking-related emergencies to which they respond.

Frackers across the country refuse to divulge what's in their special sauces of fracking chemicals, claiming the information is a trade secret -- even when their poisonous cocktails are being pumped into the ground beneath us. It's a dangerous state of affairs that puts firefighters, police officers, paramedics, and other first responders in particular peril.

North Carolina Health News reports on a bill that would help protect these first responders in the Tar Heel State from currently unknown risks:


mo' warming, mo' problems

Climate change has found another way to screw the poor

no credit

Standard & Poor's (S&P) Ratings Services has found yet another way that fossil fuel burning by rich countries is going to screw over poor ones -- by making it harder for them to borrow money.

S&P analysts identified climate change as one of two "global mega-trends" that will shape countries' economic risks in the years to come (aging populations is the other trend). In a new report, the analysts said climate change would hurt nations' creditworthiness, with poor countries the worst affected.


You can almost smell the changes

EPA to clamp down on deadly oil refinery pollution

oil refinery
Wyatt Wellman

The millions of Americans who risk cancer every day by breathing in toxic pollution belched out by oil refineries could soon be breathing a little bit easier.

The EPA proposed overdue new rules on Thursday that would force about 150 refineries in 30 states to rein in their air pollution, and to do a better job of monitoring it. Here's the Natural Resources Defense Council's John Walke with an overview of the proposal:


the violent crackle of global warming

Insane wildfires arrive months early in SoCal, threaten nuke plant

Firefighters battle the so-called Poinsettia Fire in Carlsbad, California May 14, 2014.
Reuters/Sam Hodgson
Firefighters battle the Poinsettia Fire in Carlsbad, Calif., on May 14, 2014.

Drought-parched Southern California has erupted in flames, months before the state's fire season used to normally begin. The fires threaten homes and schools -- and a shuttered nuclear power plant.

More than 20,000 people were evacuated from their homes on Wednesday as wildfires tore through the San Diego area, where temperatures today could hit 106 degrees. From The Christian Science Monitor:

Read more: Climate & Energy, Living


PAH dance, anybody?

Strip club flooded by oil spill in L.A.

oil spill at strip club

A strip club was left a sticky mess Thursday morning following yet another pipeline spill.

A geyser of an estimated 10,000 gallons of oil spewed 20 to 50 feet out of a 20-inch crude pipeline at 1 a.m., leaving an oily pool in an industrial swath of Northeast Los Angeles and sending two people to the hospital with nausea. Here's more from the L.A. Times:


LEED it ain't

Enviros bash industry-backed “green” building program

a green-colored building
Not every building that looks green actually is.

Corporations that stand to lose the most from a widespread shift toward genuine green building practices are doing what they can to preserve the status quo. For years they've been smearing LEED, or Leadership in Energy & Environmental Design, the nation’s preeminent green building certification program. They have lobbied lawmakers to ban the use of LEED certifications for government buildings — and they have succeeded in some states, such as in Maine. And they've cooked up their own green-building certification program: Green Globes.

The Sierra Club and Greenpeace are now counterattacking. They've launched a new initiative, Greenwash Action, to expose the forces behind Green Globes. From a Greenwash Action report:

Green Globes is a creature of the chemical, plastics and conventional timber industries. It is being peddled as a cheaper and easier alternative to the better-known LEED green building rating system, and claims to deliver the same environmental results. But if you really want to understand Green Globes, you need to know who’s behind it.


Bring out the big guns

Military experts are worried about climate change, and you should be too


America is coming under attack, say 16 retired generals and admirals, and the attacker is climate change.

In 2007, the Center for Naval Analyses Military Advisory Board sounded an unprecedented alarm over national security threats posed by global warming. Now the group has been asked again to advise the U.S. government on climate-change risks, and again it says there's lots to be concerned about. In a new report released on Tuesday, the retired military leaders say, “we validate the findings of our first report” and, in many cases, “the risks we identified are advancing noticeably faster than we anticipated.”

Here are some highlights from the report:


who likes money?

End fossil fuel burning, save $71 trillion — and preserve civilization as we know it

clean energy

High gas prices got you down? Your problems are a tiny fraction of those faced by our whole fossil fueladdicted global society.

A new report from the International Energy Agency considers the cost of remaining hooked on antiquated, polluting, and climate-changing energy sources.

First, here's what might seem to be bad news from the new report: It would cost the world $44 trillion to end our fossil fuel addiction by 2050 and switch to clean energy. Worse, this figure is $8 trillion higher than the IEA's last estimate, published two years ago. Expected costs have risen because we've delayed the process of switching over to climate-friendly energy sources.

And now the good news: We can save $115 trillion in fuel costs by 2050 if we move away from dirty energy, making for net savings of $71 trillion.


Oil in a day's work

A whole lot of oil spilled in the U.S. in 2013

oil spills

Tip your 10-gallon hat to the gas and oil guys. The booming industry spilled 26 million gallons of oil, fracking fluid, fracking wastewater, and other toxic substances during 7,662 accidents in just 15 states last year.

That's according to an analysis by EnergyWire, which studied state data to conclude that the number of spills was up 18 percent from the year before: