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Philip Bump's Posts


The Ocean Health Index will let us measure how horrible we are over time

There is no reason that I should prepare an introduction to the Ocean Health Index when Harrison Ford is perfectly capable of doing so. Watching this video will make you feel like you’re a sixth-grader on a field trip to an aquarium.

The Ocean Health Index is an endeavor by Conservation International, the New England Aquarium, and the National Geographic Society to establish a measurement system for the health of the world's oceans, a baseline index against which future changes can be measured. The project's (absolutely gorgeous) website explains up-front how we're doing. On a scale of 0 to 100, our oceans are at 60.

So what does that mean? The OHI assesses how the ocean areas off countries' coastlines are faring according to 10 goals: water cleanliness, biodiversity, food provision, artisanal fishing opportunities, natural products, carbon storage, coastal protection, coastal livelihoods, tourism, and sense of place. To compute the scores for each goal, several dozen components -- things like coral reef health, fisheries management, marine jobs, acidification -- were evaluated by researchers from the University of Santa Barbara and the University of British Columbia. Each country is scored on each goal on a 0-to-100 scale.

Map of ocean health by country. Greener is better. (Click to embiggen.)
Read more: Climate & Energy, Living


For some reason, this lady is mad about Enbridge cutting down her trees without permission

A tree stump, in case you weren't clear what we were talking about.

Ugh. Another hippie "revolutionary" is using her crazy liberal politics to try and stop Enbridge from helping America (by building a tar-sands pipeline to replace the one that … broke). From the Detroit Free Press:

Trees were knocked down on Debora Hense's property in Livingston County, but crews installing a new pipeline for Enbridge have moved off her land for now.

Hense said the workers left after she called 911 Wednesday morning and Livingston County sheriff's deputies arrived. She said as many as 50 trees were being cleared when she returned home from a brief trip -- even though negotiations with the pipeline company had stalled over using additional space on her land in Tyrone Township, southwest of Fenton, and expanding the permanent easement.

Jeez, hippie! Enbridge tried to negotiate with you to buy your land, but you wouldn't let them. What are they supposed to do, resolve every single problem before they start tearing down trees on private property? Get with the program!

And besides, they totally made it up to you!

Hense said the company sent her attorney a check for $810 after she and her husband failed to act on what the company called its final offer -- $18,000. She said the first offer was for $40,000. …


Paul Ryan ignores Paul Ryan and Ryan Inc. to push for green jobs

Yesterday, the Boston Globe had a big scoop. Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) -- the Republican vice presidential candidate and vocal foe of government spending -- sought millions in stimulus funding for Wisconsin organizations working on energy conservation.

In 2009, as Rep. Paul D. Ryan was railing against President Obama’s $787 billion stimulus package as a “wasteful spending spree,” he wrote at least four letters to Obama’s secretary of energy asking that millions of dollars from the program be granted to a pair of Wisconsin conservation groups, according to documents obtained by the Globe.

The advocacy appeared to pay off; both groups were awarded the economic recovery funds -- one receiving a $20 million grant to help thousands of local businesses and homes improve their energy efficiency, agency documents show.

Photo by Gage Skidmore.

As the Globe notes, this advocacy runs directly counter to the rhetoric Ryan employed on the floor of the House. During debate on January 27, 2009, Ryan explained his opposition to the stimulus bill.

Mr. Chairman, we can do better than this. We're losing tens of thousands of jobs a week in this economy. This is the worst recession we've seen in generations. And what are we about to vote on? We are about to vote on a trillion dollar spending package -- yes, a trillion dollars, because the Congressional Budget Office just told us today just to pay for the interest on this bill is another $350 billion. We're going to vote on a trillion dollar spending package that amounts to basically a spending wish list for all the special interest groups out there. …

[W]e need to come together with an economic rescue package that actually helps the economy. This bill is not worthy of our new President's signature. We can do better than this. This is not something that should come to the floor.

Read more: Uncategorized


The hottest rain in world history falls on Needles, Calif.

This guy could have saved a few bucks if he'd dragged his bathtub outside on Monday. (Photo by jthezel.)

If you have a hot tub, it's recommended that you keep it at between 98 and 103 degrees F. Maybe you like it a little warmer than that. Fine. Take it up to, I dunno, 110. Point is, you only want it so hot.

If you live in Needles, Calif., there was an easy way to fill up your hot tub earlier this week: leave it outside.

A searing heat wave rare even for the Desert Southwest sent temperatures soaring to record levels on Monday, with Needles, California tying its record high for the date of 118°F (47.8°C). The temperature might have gone higher in Needles, but a thunderstorm rolled in at 3:20 pm, and by 3:56 pm PDT, rain began falling at a temperature of 115°F (46.1°C). Most of the rain evaporated, since the humidity was only 11%, and only a trace of precipitation was recorded in the rain gauge. Nevertheless, Monday's rain at 115° in Needles sets a new world record for the hottest rain in world history.

Emphasis added, but probably not needed.

Read more: Climate & Energy


Greenland’s ice melt is its worst ever — and there’s still a month to go

Remember last month when NASA described an "extraordinary" melt across 97 percent of the surface of Greenland's ice sheet? Caused a big furor, people bugged out?

It's actually worse than that. From City College of New York:

Melting over the Greenland ice sheet shattered the seasonal record on August 8 -- a full four weeks before the close of the melting season, reports Marco Tedesco, assistant professor of Earth and atmospheric sciences at The City College of New York.

The melting season in Greenland usually lasts from June – when the first puddles of meltwater appear – to early-September, when temperatures cool. This year, cumulative melting in the first week in August had already exceeded the record of 2010, taken over a full season, according to Professor Tedesco's ongoing analysis. …

This spells a change for the face of southern Greenland, he added, with the ice sheet thinning at its edges and lakes on top of glaciers proliferating.

Professor Tedesco noted that these changes jibe with what most of the models predict – the difference is how quickly this seems to be happening.

Melting ice in Greenland. (Photo by Christine Zenino.)
Read more: Climate & Energy


Kentucky coal headed to India under new deal

WV coal protest: mineA coal mine in West Virginia.

From the Louisville Courier-Journal:

Kentucky coal producers have reached an agreement to export 9 million tons of coal annually to India for the next 25 years in a $7 billion deal.

Gov. Steve Beshear’s office announced Wednesday that New Jersey-based FJS Energy LLC signed the deal with India’s Abhijeet Group to purchase coal exports from Kentucky and West Virginia through Kentucky-based affiliates FJSE Marshall and FJSE River Coal.


Shell gets it backward, starts polluting Alaskan water before it drills

Shell's head of Alaskan exploration faces the press. (Photo by Fabio DiLupo.)

How about a quick update on Shell's puttering about in the Arctic? You may remember that it's trying to create a conduit comprised of a little bit of metal and some concrete that runs from the ocean surface directly into a large pocket of oil. This is a cause for concern to many people, although, in fairness, it has been months since there was a malfunction at an offshore rig that caused oil to spew into the ocean.

Shell's progress has been slow, something it blames on basically everyone and everything: the air, the ice, the Department of the Interior. The one of those things that is capable of responding did.

“The cause for any delay here is Shell’s construction of its vessel,” [Interior Secretary Ken] Salazar said. “They have not been able to get it done. If they had got it done, they may already be up there today, because the waters in the Chukchi [Sea] around the so-called Burger find are already open.”

“It’s not a matter of ice, it’s a matter of whether Shell has the mechanical capability to comply with the exploration (plan) that had been approved,” Salazar added.

No offense to the good people at Shell, but Salazar may have a point. I mean, the company can't even get the order of things right. See, first you're supposed to drill the well and then you're supposed to pollute the water. Shell got it backward.


One down: Planned coal export terminal in Washington is cancelled

All filled up, no place to go.

Plans for a massive coal export terminal in Grays Harbor, Wash., have been scrapped.

RailAmerica has abandoned any current plans to construct a coal storage and export facility at the Port of Grays Harbor’s Terminal 3 in Hoquiam.

Port Commissioners on Tuesday were told the company has completed an evaluation of the site and that it would no longer be exercising an agreement giving it access to study the potential for a coal terminal, although the rail company still plans to partner with the Port on future projects. ...

RailAmerica had said it was interested in possibly shipping 5 million tons of coal annually from the Powder River Basin of Montana, Wyoming, and the Dakotas, primarily overseas to China. Documents turned over by the Port of Grays Harbor as part of a Daily World public records request showed that RailAmerica first approached the Port about a coal terminal in the spring of 2010.

The port at Grays Harbor was one of several along the West Coast where coal export terminals have been proposed. As David Roberts noted in May, local economies don't see much benefit from expanding harbors to facilitate coal export.


Cliff Stearns, Solyndra loudmouth, booted from office

Cliff Stearns in happier times. (Photo from Wikipedia.)

Rep. Cliff Stearns (R-Fla.) has had a good run over the course of his 23 years on Capitol Hill. He's led the charge on important issues, such as the huge Solyndra scandal (not a scandal) and having an opinion on abortion.

But all good things must come to an end. In a primary yesterday, Stearns apparently lost his seat in a squeaker to Ted Yoho, a Tea Party veterinarian* who ran this ad:

(At this point, I can reveal that the choice of "squeaker" above was intentional.)

It's not final; Yoho leads by only 829 votes. [Wait, it is final. See update below.] But either way, Politico suggests that the vote is "an unexpected rebuke" for Stearns, who outraised Yoho 16-to-1.


Jerry Brown rails against climate deniers during summer of record heat

Brown's inauguration in 1975. (Photo courtesy of Wikipedia.)

The last time he was governor of California, Jerry Brown was dubbed "Governor Moonbeam." It was the '70s, after all, and California continued to live up to its bohemian reputation. The "Moonbeam" moniker came from a columnist in Chicago who found one of Brown's proposals too wacky to believe: using space-based satellites to facilitate emergency communications. In other words, the progenitor of how your cell phone works.

It will be interesting to see what Brown is called after his latest idea:

While the governor is in Lake Tahoe for an annual interstate summit, his office unveiled a new Web page: “Climate change: Just the facts.” The text on the page has the ring of Brown himself in its spirited defense of science and harsh critique for those who deny the impacts of global climate change. …

The page comes complete with footnotes and graphs, citing such sources as European health journals and tobacco documents from the 1960s.

“After decades of pumping greenhouse gases into the atmosphere, humanity is getting dangerously close to the point of no return,” Brown said in a statement. “Those who still deny global warming’s existence should wake up and honestly face the facts.”

The page in question is here, part of the governor's Office of Planning and Research. That makes sense, as a governor ought to prepare for -- or, ideally, prevent -- the worst impacts of climate change, which Brown's office describes as "sea level rise, more frequent and hotter heat waves, a declining water supply and large, intense wildfires.”