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Quick, Hide the Mung Beans

Unexpected levels of human-caused methane could mean trouble A rise in human-caused methane emissions -- a phrase that certainly does not make us giggle -- has been masked by a decline in natural methane releases, says a new report in Nature. Atmospheric concentrations of methane, less abundant than carbon dioxide but 20 times greenhouse-gassier, have remained relatively stable since 1999. But data from tracking stations around the world show that the human-caused variety, which decreased during the 1990s (likely thanks to the fall of the Soviet Union), has increased since 1999 (likely thanks to the boom in Asia). The uptick …

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Something Fishy: Smack is wack

Overfishing, global warming causing increases in jellyfish populations

Ahoy, me hearties! Me hopes ye've now recovered from Talk Like a Pirate Day. Turned out to be a jolly good time here at Grist HQ aboard me ship -- a good lot of pirate jokes and a few noggins o' rum and me timbers were shivered, if ye know what I mean. Well, this week mateys, me post was inspired by the maritime adventures of a coworker shipmate during his travels in Cabo. Apparently, after a dip in the refreshing waters, his partner started to develop a large welt -- likely from a jellyfish floating stealthily nearby. The anecdote …

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Hurricanes and global warming

The connection

In the spirit of pissing off friends and foes alike, let me make the following three claims: Global warming is already affecting hurricane intensity, and will only do so more in coming years; the Bush administration is actively attempting to hide this fact from the public; the connection between hurricanes and global warming is not, contra conventional activist wisdom, a good argument for reducing greenhouse-gas emissions. While the correlation between global warming and hurricane strength is still a matter of some controversy in the scientific community, a series of recent studies all confirm the suspicion -- bolstered by common sense …

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The Quality of Commerce Is Strain’d

Nature charges that Commerce Department blocked climate-change report The Commerce Department blocked a National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration report indicating that climate change contributes to stronger hurricanes, the journal Nature reported yesterday. In February, a seven-member NOAA panel was directed to prepare a report on agency views regarding climate change and hurricanes, and a draft indicated that -- gasp! -- warming might indeed affect storms. In May, when the statement was to be released, a Commerce official informed the panel that the report was too technical to be made public. A NOAA spokesflack disputed the Nature article, saying the document …

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Anyone Got an Extra PFD?

Earth nearing warmest point in a million years, may see rougher El Niños The earth is the warmest it has been in the last 12,000 years and is within 1.8 degrees of its highest average temperature in the past million years, scientists report in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. The global surface temperature has increased 0.36 degrees each of the last three decades, more rapidly than during the century up to 1975. "If further global warming reaches [3.6 to 5.4 degrees Fahrenheit], we will likely see changes that make earth a different planet than the one we …

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When Teshekpuk Comes to Shove

Sensitive Alaska wetlands spared from drilling plan -- for now In good news for conservationists, the Department of Interior has announced willingness to exclude the sensitive Teshekpuk Lake wetlands from a region of the National Petroleum Reserve-Alaska that it wants to open to oil and natural-gas drilling. The move has little to do with concern for ecosystem health and much to do with getting the drilling plan past the U.S. District Court of Alaska that blocked the lease sale earlier this month; the court said the feds hadn't adequately assessed the environmental impact of the proposed drilling. DOI is asking …

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Bush’s climate plan will kick-start a new era of bargaining over the planet’s future

On your mark ... Get set ... Go? Photo: iStockphoto And so the bargaining has begun. After almost two decades of inaction, at long last America seems ready to start considering some kind of action to address global warming. With states setting conflicting standards, with the scientists announcing weekly updates on the speed and size of the approaching cataclysm, with shareholder activism starting to push business, and with green stirrings even from the evangelical wing of American Christianity, the time when the fossil-fuel lobby could get away with total obstruction may be passing. Not too quickly, mind you -- yesterday's …

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Branson's statement

Worth about $20 million per word

Eliciting gasps and goosebumps at a press conference this morning at the Clinton Global Initiative in midtown Manhattan, Richard Branson, CEO of the mega-conglomerate Virgin Group, announced a commitment to invest a staggering $3 billion toward solving climate change, focusing his investments on developing biofuels and other oil alternatives. The transcript of his public vow follows: Our generation has inherited a very beautiful world from our parents and we must not be the generation responsible for irreversibly damaging it. We must hand it over in as near pristine a condition as we were leant it by our parents. To achieve …

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Tech-alekahi Tech-aheiny Ho

Bush admin. releases plan to fight global warming with technology As part of its 2002 plan to fight global warming (what, you never heard about that one?), the Bush administration promised a technology-development plan. A mere four years later, it has arrived! To the surprise of absolutely no one, the "Climate Change Technology Program Strategic Plan" is largely a token gesture, a rounding up under one umbrella of existing subsidies to select industries, mainly nuclear, "clean coal," and ethanol, with targets that don't kick in until 2010. It promises $3 billion a year for various government tech programs, a mere …

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I Say Good Day to You, Sir

Brit scientists tell Exxon to stop the poppycock and folderol In a highly unusual move, Britain's top scientific body earlier this month sent a letter to ExxonMobil -- since leaked to the press -- calling on the oil giant to stop lying ... er, misrepresenting the science of climate change, and to stop funding other organizations that do so. Based on what he calls his "ad hoc survey" of Exxon's list of supported research organizations, Bob Ward of the Royal Society said that some 39 of them were issuing misleading information about global warming, "by outright denial of the evidence …

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