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At this year’s big climate rally, most of the people won’t be pale, male, and stale

climate ralliers
People's Climate March

More than 500 organizations are planning a historic event for Sept. 21 in New York City, what they say will be the largest rally for climate action ever. Organizers and ralliers will be calling on world leaders to craft a new international climate treaty, two days before those leaders will convene at a Climate Summit at the United Nations headquarters. Jamie Henn, spokesperson for 350.org, the main convener of the event, declined to offer a precise target for turnout, but the current holder of the largest-climate-rally title, a February 2012 march on the White House, drew around 50,000 people, so organizers are expecting more than that -- possibly significantly more.

However many people show up, though, this march will likely be historic for another reason: its diversity and its focus on climate justice. More than 20 labor unions are among the organizations leading in the planning and turnout efforts. On Wednesday morning, representatives of a handful of them gathered in the Midtown Manhattan office of 1199, the local chapter of the Service Employees International Union (SEIU), for a press conference, and then they were joined in Times Square by more unions for a small pep rally to promote the September event. Other groups present included locals from the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers, the Transport Workers Union of Greater New York (TWU), and local social- and environmental-justice organizations such as UPROSE and the NYC Environmental Justice Alliance.

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Booze clues

Watch this adorable climate scientist explain sea-level rise with a gin & tonic

Screen Shot 2014-07-30 at 10.40.32 AM

A stranger at a bar challenged scientist Adam Levy on climate change. In a video response, Levy uses a classic cocktail to show how rising temperatures affect sea-level rise. Climate science, booze, and adorable Commonwealth accents? Count us in.

Remember: Do not try this at home (adding salt to a beautiful gin & tonic, that is).

Read more: Climate & Energy, Living

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This huge corporation is tackling climate change — because it’s a threat to the bottom line

cheerios.jpg
culpfiction

A few months ago, the international food manufacturing giant General Mills was branded a "clear laggard" by climate activists for not doing enough to cut its carbon footprint. Oxfam International accused the company of dragging its feet on reducing so-called "scope 3" greenhouse gas emissions -- those not directly controlled by the company, but essential in making its products; for example, emissions from a farm contracted by General Mills to grow the oats that eventually wind up in your cereal bowl. Oxfam also faulted the company for not using its clout to engage directly with governments to "positively influence climate change policy."

General Mills' worldwide sales total $17.9 billion, and it owns familiar consumer brands like Cheerios, Old El Paso, and Pillsbury.

Monday, Oxfam claimed big victory: General Mills released a new set of climate policies that Oxfam says makes it "the first major food and beverage company to promise to implement long-term science-based targets to cut emissions."

The policy states unequivocally that General Mills believes that climate change is a big threat to global food security and its future business model:

Read more: Climate & Energy, Food

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Irony much?

Oil refinery threatened by sea-level rise, asks government to fix problem

refinery on the coast
Shutterstock

I pointed out last week that the major oil companies are actually much more willing than Republican politicians to admit the reality of climate change. I offered a few explanations as to why, but left out an important one: If you’re in business, you simply cannot afford to ignore the effects of climate change. The oil industry in particular builds expensive infrastructure, and its scientists and engineers use the best available science to design, situate, and manage that infrastructure. After all, you cannot make smart plans to exploit newly accessible Arctic oil if you don’t admit that the polar ice cap is melting.

Here’s an ironic case in point, via the Sierra Club’s blog: An oil refinery in Delaware is asking taxpayers to pay for protecting it from rising sea levels. The refinery is on the waterfront, and rising tides and extreme storms could threaten it. The federal Coastal Zone Management Act provides grants to states for projects such as building out natural barriers, like dunes, to protect against storm surges. Delaware has such a program in place. And now the oil refinery, after contributing to climate change for more than 50 years , is coming with its hand out. Amy Roe, conservation chair of the Sierra Club's Delaware chapter, writes:

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More Like Pacific Northworst

Climate refugees, DO NOT MOVE TO THE PACIFIC NORTHWEST

seattle-green
chris tarnawski

Many Seattle residents revere Cliff Mass as the Yoda of weather in the Northwest. On his blog and through spots in local media, this professor of atmospheric sciences at the University of Washington helps us process our snowpocalypses and measure out Lexapro for 10 months of the year. Now he's turning his big-weather brain to something regularly on our minds here at Grist: "As global warming takes hold later in the century, where will be the best place in the lower 48 states to escape its worst effects?"

Here's the short answer from Cliff: 

Read more: Climate & Energy, Living

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Think people of color don’t care about the environment? Think again

dorceta_taylor
University of Michigan School of Natural Resources & Environment

I need to get one thing out the way about “The State of Diversity in Environmental Organizations” report launched yesterday. In my blog, I wrote that the report was compiled by a working group called Green 2.0. Actually, all of the research and writing of the 200-plus page report was done by Dorceta Taylor, professor at the University of Michigan’s School of Natural Resources and Environment. She is also the first African-American woman to earn a PhD from the Yale School of Forestry and Environmental Studies.

Before the diversity report (which was commissioned by Green 2.0), Taylor authored dozens of articles and studies on how to solve the problem of homogeneity among environmental groups, and about environmental inequities across the board. Taylor’s new book, Toxic Communities: Environmental Racism, Industrial Pollution and Residential Mobility, has barely been out two months and has already been called the “standard-bearer” for the field of environmental justice by Fordham Law Professor Sheila R. Foster.

While it took months for Taylor to pull together all of the data and conduct hundreds of interviews with environmental stakeholders to produce the “State of Diversity” report, it took just minutes for people to attack the report’s findings -- that green groups and government agencies can and need to do much better in hiring people of color. (To get a sense of the reaction, check out the comments on my first post about the report.)

I’ll have plenty to say on that over the next week or so, but the first word belongs to the researcher. I spoke with Taylor by phone to clear the air on a few misperceptions about not only her study, but also misinformation on the attitudes of people of color in general when it comes to the environment.

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Caboose? More Like Kaboom, video

This doc about “bomb trains” filled with crude oil will make your head explode

oil train
Shutterstock

VICE News just released Bomb Trains: The Crude Gamble of Oil by Raila 23-minute-long documentary investigating the explosive oil trains that regularly run from the Bakken shale to the Pacific Northwest. That might seem a bit long for web video, but you should watch it anyway — mostly because Thomas the Terror Engine is headed to your town, but also because Jerry Bruckheimer has nothing on the terrifying explosions at the 5:09 and 6:00 marks.

Read more: Climate & Energy, Living

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Ouch

Obama’s coal-leasing program is costing taxpayers more than $50 billion

coal and money
Shutterstock

It is common for the coal industry and its conservative allies in politics and media to complain that President Obama is waging a “war on coal.” It is certainly true that the share of American energy that comes from coal is declining. Obama doesn’t actually deserve much of the credit for that. It’s mostly due to the natural gas boom, helped along by the rise of solar and grassroots organizing efforts such as the Sierra Club’s Beyond Coal campaign. Still, Obama is trying to move the energy sector further away from coal in the years ahead through his proposed CO2 regulations for power plants.

But coal extraction keeps chugging along, with much of the coal being exported to Asian countries that are hungry for energy to fuel their growing economies. And a lot of this mining is taking place on federal land. The Bureau of Land Management sells leases to coal companies at far below their market value, and even farther below the cost of their pollution on society. As we’ve previously noted, this is one of the ways the federal government subsidizes fossil fuel production. Such subsidies have actually grown during the Obama administration. Environmentalists say that Obama’s “all of the above” energy policy contradicts his professed commitment to reducing CO2 emissions, and undermines his efforts to do so.

"Leasing Coal, Fueling Climate Change," a report released on Monday by Greenpeace, attempts to quantify the scope and social costs of federal coal leasing. Here are the most important statistic-filled bits:

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When a species poisons an entire planet

Modern cyanobacteria, magnified 2400x. A distant ancestor of this plant changed the entire planet.
Josef Reischig / Wikipedia

Let me tell you about a catastrophe. I don't use that word lightly: This event was monumental, an apocalypse that was literally global in scale, and one of the most deadly disasters in Earth's history.

It began about 2.5 billion years ago (though opinions vary). The Earth was very different then. There were no leafy plants, no animals, no insects. Although there may have been some bacterial life on land, it was the oceans that teemed with it, and even there life was far simpler than it is today. Most of the bacteria thriving on Earth were anaerobic, literally metabolizing their food without oxygen.

But then an upstart appeared, and things changed. This new life came in the form of cyanobacteria, sometimes called blue-green algae.

Cyanobacteria are photosynthetic. They convert sunlight into energy and produce oxygen as a waste product. Back then, the Earth’s atmosphere didn’t have free oxygen in it as it does today. It was locked up in water molecules, or bonded to iron in minerals.

The cyanobacteria changed that. But not at first: For a while, as they produced free oxygen as their waste, iron would bond with it and the environment could keep up with the production.

At some point, though, as cyanobacteria flourished, the minerals and other sinks became saturated. They could no longer absorb the oxygen being produced. It built up in the water, in the air. To the other bacteria living in the ocean -- anaerobic bacteria, remember -- oxygen was toxic. The cyanobacteria were literally respiring poison.

A die-off began, a mass extinction killing countless species of bacteria. It was the Great Oxygenation Event. But there was worse to come.

Read more: Climate & Energy

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Inside the huge solar farm that powers Apple’s iCloud

lisa-jackson.jpg
Climate Desk

The article was reported by the Guardian's Suzanne Goldenberg, and the video was produced by Climate Desk's James West.

The skies are threatening to pour on the Apple solar farm but as the woman in charge of the company's environmental initiatives points out: The panels are still putting out some power. Apple is still greening its act.

The company, which once drew fire from campaigners for working conditions in China and heavy reliance on fossil fuels, is now leading other technology companies in controlling its own power supply and expanding its use of renewable energy.

After converting all of its data centers to clean energy, the Guardian understands Apple is poised to use solar power to manufacture sapphire screens for the iPhone 6, at a factory in Arizona.

And in a departure for its reputation for secretiveness, Apple is going out of its way to get credit for its green efforts.

"We know that our customers expect us to do the right thing about these issues," Lisa Jackson, the vice-president of environmental initiatives told the Guardian.

This week, the company invited journalists on a rare tour of its data center in North Carolina to showcase its efforts.