Squelch, squelch, squelch — that could be the sound of future America, if predictions about how climate change will ramp up "extreme rainfall" prove accurate.
Say the world's nations do little to reduce the amount of greenhouse gases pouring into the atmosphere. By the years 2041 to 2070, the warmer climate could bring torrential downpours to vast parts of the United States, as shown in this model from NOAA. Dark-blue splashes depict areas that might see as many as two or more days a year of extreme rain, defined as "rainfall totals in excess of the historic 98th percentile." (This is against a 1971 to 2000 baseline.) Cities that should maybe consider wooing the umbrella-manufacturing industry include Seattle, Wash.; Portland, Ore.; Boise, Idaho; Richmond, Va.; and much of the Northeast.
Leto, fresh off an Oscar win, has signed an open letter calling on Secretary of State John Kerry to recommend against building the pipeline. Twelve other young environmentalists signed the letter, including Svante Myrick, the 26-year-old mayor of Ithaca, N.Y.; Adam Gardner, the lead singer of Guster; and Taylor Swift’s ex-boyfriend. The Sierra Club identifies this group as “leaders of the millennial generation.” Speaking for my kind, more accurate representatives might have included 2 Chainz, Marissa Cooper, and Maru the Cat, but I’m not confident that those candidates would have been able to put together an equally compelling piece of writing.
The morning I wrote this I took public transportation to work. I hopped on the bus around the corner from my house, then the train for a few stops farther. I took mass transit because it was convenient, because my card was already preloaded with the cash that diverts from my paycheck, and because the ride gave me 20 minutes to start the day browsing Twitter.
Baked into this decision, however, were a number of other nearly subliminal calculations about the alternatives not taken. I did not drive the car (yes, my household has a car) because downtown Washington, D.C., is a hot mess at rush hour, and because parking near the office costs the equivalent of a fancy hamburger a day. I did not bike because it was snowing. (Again.) And I did not walk because the distance was too far.
My commuting choices -- just like everyone's -- are the sum of the advantages of one transportation mode weighed against the downsides of all other options. Or, more succinctly: My feelings about the bus are mediated by what I'm thinking about my car.
Winners for the C-SPAN’s annual student documentary competition were just announced and, of the 2,355 films submitted, the $5,000 grand prize went to a group who hits pretty close to home. I’m not saying that because they picked fracking, a topic we often cover, as the most important issue Congress should consider. I'm saying it because one of the three high school freshmen in the winning group -- Michaela Capps, Sarah Highducheck, and Emma Larson -- is my sister.
Look away if you’re eating, because this is truly disgusting. Didymo (code name: rock snot) is an algae bloom that looks like barf mixed with mucus. When it first showed up in eastern Canada in 2006, people assumed it was an invasive species, BECAUSE IT IS SO TERRIFYING. (Conventional wisdom was that fishers were accidentally spreading it by tromping around with their dirty boots.)
Nope! Turns out it’s native -- it was just sleeping all this time, and climate change woke it up!
California Gov. Jerry Brown has taken his cue from Nicki Minaj, Katy Perry, and countless other public figures by coming out with his own fragrance: Frack Water. It “smells like a man. A man who doesn’t give a sh*t about drought or climate change!” OK, it's not ACTUALLY endorsed by the governor, but still. Splash some on your wrists, why don’t you?
The hallmark of a Republican policy proposal is that it can be adapted to virtually any circumstance. Just as George W. Bush advanced tax cuts as the appropriate response to both budget surplus and deficit, congressional Republicans believe that fossil fuel promotion is the appropriate response to, well, everything. And so they have looked at the vexing problem of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine’s Crimea region and come up with a carefully calibrated answer: “Drill, baby, drill!”
First, Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) was struck with a brilliant insight: If Russia’s meddling in Ukraine is dangerous because Russia supplies Europe with oil and natural gas through pipelines that traverse Ukraine, then the U.S. should offer Europe an alternative source of fossil fuels. And so, she argues, the Obama administration should expedite approval of liquefied natural gas (LNG) terminals. “Our ability to respond quickly and nimbly I think is somewhat hampered by the process that we have in place,” she told reporters at an energy industry conference in Houston on Monday. “If this was a situation in which we wanted to use as political leverage our natural gas opportunities here, we’re not in that place now, and quite honestly it may be some time.” In her speech to the gathering, she also called on Congress to repeal the ban on exporting crude oil, saying, “Lifting the oil export ban will send a powerful message that America has the resources and the resolve to be the preeminent power in the world.”
House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio), sensing an opportunity to portray generic Republican corporatism as a brave stand against Vladimir Putin’s bullying, issued his own statement Tuesday calling on Obama to approve LNG terminals. “The U.S. has a responsibility to stand up for freedom and democracy around the globe, and we have a responsibility to stand with the people of Ukraine in the face of Russia’s invasion,” said Boehner. “One immediate step the president can and should take is to dramatically expedite the approval of U.S. exports of natural gas. ... We should not force our allies to remain dependent on Putin for their energy needs.”
“I consider myself a fairly water-conscious person,” says the average American, sipping on a venti iced coffee while dipping his toes in an Olympic-sized pool, spritzing himself with Evian. “I probably just use a few gallons a day,” he continues, stepping out of a 45-minute shower. “By the way -- have I told you about my toilet that flushes automatically every 20 minutes, just to make sure it’s consistently pristine?”
Just kidding -- it’s not quite that bad. But, according to a recent study in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, the average American consumes twice as much water as she thinks she does. Furthermore, we Americans are not quite sure which practices are the most water-intensive. As it turns out, the Olympic-sized pool isn’t the biggest concern -- 70 percent of personal water use occurs within the home, according to a 2005 EPA study. And the biggest culprit under the roof? Toilet-flushing, accounting for 27 percent of all indoor water use.
You know how we sometimes like movies in which famous world landmarks are dramatically destroyed? Climate change is about to bring those scenes to a museum near you, albeit with fewer meteors and more meteoric sea level rise.
According to a new report published Wednesday in Environmental Research Letters, everything you love is going to disappear, assuming you are the kind of person who loves old art and history and stuff. The researchers looked at UNESCO World Heritage sites, which, like humans, tend to cluster near the coasts. They simulated flooding the world with an average of 6.6 meters of sea level rise over a couple of centuries. The result was a very soggy situation: About 140 of 720 sites surveyed would be underwater, or at least in the kiddie pool -- and that’s without even accounting for storm surge. As one of the researchers encouragingly clarified, these are the low-ball estimates.
On Monday, I reported on the latest study to take a bite out of the idea of human rationality. In a paper just published in Pediatrics, Brendan Nyhan of Dartmouth and his colleagues showed that presenting people with information confirming the safety of vaccines triggered a "backfire effect," in which people who already distrusted vaccines actually became less likely to say they would vaccinate their kids.
Unfortunately, this is hardly the only example of such a frustrating response being documented by researchers. Nyhan and his coauthor Jason Reifler of the University of Exeter have captured several others, as have other researchers. Here are some examples:
1. Tax cuts increase revenue? In a 2010 study, Nyhan and Reifler asked people to read a fake newspaper article containing a real quotation of George W. Bush, in which the former president asserted that his tax cuts "helped increase revenues to the Treasury." In some versions of the article, this false claim was then debunked by economic evidence: A correction appended to the end of the article stated that in fact, the Bush tax cuts "were followed by an unprecedented three-year decline in nominal tax revenues, from $2 trillion in 2000 to $1.8 trillion in 2003." The study found that conservatives who read the correction were twice as likely to believe Bush's claim was true as were conservatives who did not read the correction.