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Susie Cagle's Posts

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Biden’s buffoonery more newsworthy than climate change

The media covered Joe Biden's grin twice as much as they talked about climate change this horse-race election season.

That's what Media Matters found in a new report:

Read more: Politics

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Climate change threatens to wipe out your coffee

Is Arabica nearly eradica? Arabica coffee beans could be extinct in the wild by 2080 because of climate change, according to a new study by researchers at London's Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew. All weekend the internet freaked out about the looming coffee apocalypse. It was kind of like this.

From National Geographic:

Read more: Climate & Energy, Food

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Superstorm Sandy hit Superfund sites, spread toxic pollution

Superfund sites and fuel spills and lead contamination, oh god!

U.S. Coast Guard
The Coast Guard sets about cleaning up an oil spill in New Jersey's Arthur Kill waterway.

We’re learning more about the eco-impact of Hurricane Sandy, and it's not looking good.

Nearly a quarter of New Jersey and New York's Superfund toxic sites are within a half-mile of vulnerable coastal areas. Those the Environmental Protection Agency says were "impacted by the storm" include New York's Gowanus Canal and Newtown Creek, both designated Superfund-supergross in 2010. From The Wall Street Journal:

The EPA said it tested water samples its workers took from Brooklyn's Gowanus Canal and nearby flooded buildings, but found only "low levels" of potentially cancer-causing pollutants, which it said may be "related to spilled fuel and runoff from asphalt." New York state officials say they think the floodwaters probably traveled over the Gowanus and Brooklyn's other Superfund site, Newtown Creek, without disturbing the pollutants that line the bottoms of both waterways.

But Thomas Burke, a professor and associate dean at Johns Hopkins School of Public Health, said the Gowanus and Newtown Creek—whose cleanups haven't begun in earnest yet—are more vulnerable to flooding risks than sites in more advanced stages of remediation, where caps and liners have already been placed over bottom-lying toxic material.

Read more: Climate & Energy

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Chevron to poor California town: ‘Thanks, but we’d rather pollute’

Remember this? Because I sure do.

That was an Aug. 6 fire at a 110-year-old Chevron refinery in Richmond, Calif. Those outrageous, toxic plumes sent more than 15,000 people to area hospitals complaining of eye and respiratory issues. In the aftermath, it was revealed that Chevron hadn't installed air monitoring stations it had agreed to set up in 2010 and that it was bypassing existing monitoring equipment.

A month ago, the Richmond City Council unanimously adopted a resolution asking that Chevron adopt "the highest standards and best technology" to prevent future disasters and cut standard pollution in an area where residents are plagued by chronic asthma thanks to particulate pollutants. But the city's Planning Department told Chevron it could do whatever it wants, which is exactly what the oil giant is doing: replacing broken parts, but not upgrading anything. From The San Francisco Chronicle:

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E.U. wimps out, postpones controversial airline-emissions law

Christmas came early this year for the dirty, dirty airline industry.

airplane

Following months of tension and threats, today the European Union announced it intends to postpone for a year a law aimed at curbing carbon emissions from airplanes. The law would have required all airlines that fly to or from E.U. countries to participate in a cap-and-trade system, granting each a certain level of CO2 output per year. If an airline exceeded that amount, it would have to buy carbon allowances or pay fines, starting in April of 2013. The law was an attempt to deal with fast-growing airline pollution; air travel is now responsible for about 3 percent of global CO2 emissions.

But the U.S., China, and India protested vehemently and claimed the issue should be dealt with on a global scale (because, you know, other international climate efforts have been so successful). From The New York Times:

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Ticks are turning victims into vegetarians

Are you ready to never read "blood meal" the same way again?

Travellin' John

There is now scientific confirmation of the tick-borne meat allergies we first told you about in August. From ABC News:

A bite from the lone star tick, so-called for the white spot on its back, looks innocent enough. But researchers say saliva that sneaks into the wound might trigger a reaction to meat agonizing enough to convert lifelong carnivores into wary vegetarians.

"People will eat beef and then anywhere from three to six hours later start having a reaction; anything from hives to full-blown anaphylactic shock," said Dr. Scott Commins, assistant professor of medicine at the University of Virginia in Charlottesville.

Read more: Living

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Building climate resilience through smarter cities and tighter communities

It's been nearly two weeks since Hurricane Sandy decimated large parts of the Eastern seaboard. The subway may be back, but more than a half million people are still without power and thousands are still without water. The conversation continues about how best to adapt to a new world of monster weather.

Jeremy Zilar
An Occupy Sandy distribution center in Sunset Park, Brooklyn.

Scientific American has an interview today with climate scientist Cynthia Rosenzweig, who has been studying the impact of climate change on New York since the '90s, and first analyzed risks to the city infrastructure from rising waters in 2001. Rosenzweig says a new way forward for coastal communities will require "an integrated approach that covers three areas: engineering, ecologically based adaptation and policies."

Overarching all of this is design, urban planning. What we really need to do is recover, rebuild and create a vibrant and sustainable coastal city region. Let's do this in creative ways. For example, the Dutch are not just looking to engineering solutions, they are looking at a mix of solutions. So there are the iconic floating houses but they are also doing a lot with raising apartment buildings and allowing water to slosh in and out when floods come. We have to accept that we are a coastal region. There are going to be coastal floods. How do we live with it?

How do we live with it? The Census has this great and kind of shocking visualization of how Americans are drawn to coastlines like moths to flame. That "we" is huge, and climate change will touch all of us.

We haven't been able to look to the government for leadership on climate change, so why would we look to it for leadership on cleaning up the mess that climate change creates? In an interview at Salon, disaster historian and New York resident Jacob Remes discusses what "living with it" would look like from the ground up.

Read more: Cities, Living

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Will baby boomers just keep on driving?

Every day, the generation that drove America's love affair with the automobile draws closer to death retirement. And who better to help us figure out what that means than the AARP?

Stefan Amer Royalty

A new report out from its Public Policy Institute considers whether America’s baby boomers may be moving toward lives that rely less on cars. From the Associated Press:

How long those 74 million people born between 1946 and 1964 continue to work, whether they choose to live in their suburban houses after their children leave home or whether they flock to city neighborhoods where they are less likely to need a car will have important ramifications for all Americans.

On the one hand:

Most boomers live in the suburbs and are expected to remain in the homes where they raised their children even after they become empty nesters. The housing bust has also trapped many older boomers in large homes whose values have fallen, sometimes below the balance of their mortgages.

On the other hand:

Demographers have noted an uptick in retirees moving to central cities where they're less dependent on being able to drive. Because there are so many boomers, if a significant number move to central cities, it could drive up housing costs and force cities to make greater accommodations for the elderly, such as more benches at bus stops or a slowing of the timing of pedestrian crossing lights.

Read more: Cities, Living

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Tree-sits: Transcendent protest glory or just bottles of pee?

In light of the enduring tree-sit blockade in East Texas that's holding off the Keystone XL pipeline construction there, this op-ed from Waging Nonviolence.

A tree-sit was organized to challenge strip mining in 2011 and in 2012. This year the tactic was used to resist fracking and to protest a new biolab in Florida. Other “climbers” have included members of the Ruckus Society, students at the University of California Santa Cruz and the University of California Berkeley. But the most enduring example was Julia Butterfly Hill’s two-year tree-sit in the late 1990s.

It's almost the 15-year anniversary of Hill's Northern California campaign against redwood clear-cutting, and the tree-sit tactic has never been so popular. It's practically become de rigueur for the environmental movement.

Read more: Uncategorized

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Climate change and overfishing hurt our cutest, tiniest fish

Our tiny fish are in trouble. Sardines may be considered "sustainable," but we're not managing them well.

A new study from researchers in the U.S. and Venezuela on sardine collapse in the Caribbean has found "climate change, plankton decline, and overfishing" are to blame for an extreme decline that "may have dire socioeconomic consequences" for countries in the region. From SciDev:

Read more: Climate & Energy, Food