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Primal Screen

“Snowpiercer” is cli-fi with no science in it. We need more films like it.

Tilda Swinton in 'Snowpiercer.'
Radius/The Weinstein Company

First of all, you’ll have to get past the title. Yes, Snowpiercer sounds like temperature-play porn or badly translated anime. Moving on.

The movie is actually a wildly bizarre sci-fi action flick from celebrated Korean director Bong Joon Ho (The Host), based on a French graphic novel. It enjoys an 83-percent rating on Metacritic. Not bad for a movie where all the action is confined to a single train, and soot-dusted extras from Oliver get into bloody axe battles with masked, bondagey bros with night vision. Also, Captain America has a beard in it and he never smiles. (It opened in a few select cities a few weeks ago and expands to 354 theaters  and video-on-demand today.)

Read more: Climate & Energy, Living

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Is the carbon bubble about to bust? One unlikely pundit thinks so

bubble
Jeff Kubina

As Grist readers, I'm sure you've heard of the "carbon bubble" -- the idea that the oil, gas, and coal industries are overvalued in the market because that value is calculated using energy reserves that they won't be able to sell in any future that isn't a climate apocalypse.

I've read a lot of articles about the carbon bubble, but recently I ran across a particularly interesting one, written by Ambrose Evans-Pritchard in the Daily Telegraph -- which, as Britain's Tory paper, isn't exactly a hotbed of anti-corporate sentiment.

Evans-Pritchard sees a lot of crazy things going on in the markets right now -- China's construction boom, in particular -- but he says that the most disconcerting is the amount of effort that oil and gas companies are spending looking for new resources in areas with such low profit margins. The gradual end of the Federal Reserve's quantitative easing policy in the U.S., and similar monetary tightening elsewhere, may also cause oil and gas prices to fall, turning the infrastructure that has been invested in finding oil and gas and getting it to market into an expensive liability.

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A gassy, icy concoction

New shipping channel will carry natural gas through the Arctic

sea ice
Shutterstock

Most people think the thinning of the sea ice at the top of the world is a bad thing. But not shipping and fossil fuel interests.

Shipping companies this week announced that they would use icebreakers to carve a new Arctic shipping route to help them deliver natural gas from a processing plant in western Siberia to customers in Japan and China. The Wall Street Journal reports:

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Drowning in dangers

Climate change is flooding out American coastlines

Storm surge flooding
U.S. Coast Guard
Flooding caused by Hurricane Arthur on the Outer Banks of North Carolina.

Hurricane Arthur is no more than a holiday-dampening memory in the minds of many East Coast residents and visitors. But the 4.5-foot storm surge it produced along parts of North Carolina's shoreline on July 4 was a reminder that such tempests don't need to tear houses apart to cause damage.

As seas rise, shoreline development continues, and shoreline ecosystems are destroyed, the hazards posed by storm surges from hurricanes are growing more severe along the Gulf Coast and East Coast.

Two soggy prognoses for storm-surge vulnerabilities were published on Thursday. A Reuters analysis of 25 million hourly tide-gauge readings highlighted soaring risks in recent decades as sea levels have risen. Meanwhile, a company that analyzes property values warned of the dizzying financial risks that such surges now pose.

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Kidney stones: One more thing to look forward to in our climate-changed future

KidneyStone

With the world’s weather warming, you can expect a commensurate rise in the typical summertime body bothers, but what’s the big deal? That’s just the price you pay for modern convenience. Who can’t handle a case of stink-foot, a spot of swamp-butt, pit-stained T-shirts, and stabbing pains in the abdomen and lower back accompanied by excruciating and bloody urination.

Wait a minute, what was that last one?

New research from the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia suggests that even slight warming causes a marked increase in kidney stones. The study focused on 60,000 patients in five U.S. cities, analyzing the frequency of patients seeking treatment for kidney stones within 20 days of temperatures rising above a pretty mild 50 degrees Fahrenheit. In Philadelphia, when average temperatures rose to 86 degrees, kidney stone cases went up a startling 47 percent.

While excessive heat was a big factor, rapid changes in temperature were also a big predictor. Atlanta and Los Angeles, for instance, have the same average temperature of 63 degrees, but Atlanta, which is far more prone to temperature extremes than seemingly climate controlled Los Angeles, had twice the reported rate of kidney stones. Sobering, as most climate models predict not only warmer temperatures, but more radically fluctuating weather patterns.

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We officially nominate M. Sanjayan and Neil deGrasse Tyson for the 2015 season of True Detective

truedetective_sanjayan_tyson
Eve Andrews / HBO / Fox/National Geographic

This year’s Primetime Emmy nominations proved that climate change is Having A Moment right now. (Ha! That is clearly a joke. Every moment belongs to climate change, because it is the inescapable fate of the planet.)

The Showtime series Years of Living Dangerously and Neil deGrasse Tyson’s Cosmos each garnered Emmy nods for Outstanding Documentary Or Nonfiction Series. Cosmos was nominated in 11 additional categories.

As you may recall, Tyson took climate deniers to task in an episode of Cosmos, during which he travelled to the major battleground of the climate wars (a.k.a. the Arctic circle). And M. Sanjayan, host of Years of Living Dangerously and executive vice president of Conservation International, traveled the world to show the real-life, on-the-ground consequences of global warming.

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Rich Republicans are the worst climate deniers

rich businessman throws money
Shutterstock

We've known for some time that as Republicans become more highly educated, or better at general science comprehension, they become stronger in their global warming denial. It's a phenomenon I've called the "smart idiot" effect: Apparently being highly informed or capable interacts with preexisting political biases to make those on the right more likely to be wrong than they would be if they had less education or knowledge.

Now, a new study in the journal Climatic Change has identified a closely related phenomenon. Call it the "rich idiot" effect: The study finds that among Republicans, as levels of income increase, so does their likelihood of "dismissing the dangers associated with climate change." But among Democrats and independents, there is little or no change in climate views as levels of income increase or decrease.

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Heartland Institute Gets A Bad Rap

This climate-denying rapper is about as dope as you’d expect

For the past nine years, climate deniers from all over the world have gathered for the International Conference on Climate Change, brought to you by the Heartland Institute (the same folks who deny that tobacco causes lung cancer).

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Triple threat

Cowboys, hunters, and enviros team up to fight natural gas drilling

If you take off in a plane from the airport in Aspen, Colo., you'll soon see exactly what natural gas drilling looks like -- and exactly why so many residents of the surrounding region, from ranchers to business owners to greens, are fighting to keep it in check.

Fly north over the Thompson Divide, a region mostly contained within the White River National Forest, and all you see is green, lush mountains and valleys. This is a habitat for migratory species from birds to elk.

Thompson Divide
Bruce Gordon / EcoFlight

Continue on, and tilt a bit west, and you enter the Piceance (pronounced “Pee-once”) Basin. There you see patches of denuded brown dirt with long thin lines leading to them, like the pitcher's mound on a baseball field. These are some of Colorado’s roughly 30,000 active gas wells, and the roads built to service them. (Many thanks to EcoFlight, a nonprofit environmental education group, for showing me the views.)

Grassy Mesa
Bruce Gordon / EcoFlight

Gradually, over the course of recent years, the drilling has spread eastward, over each successive hill. Now residents in the Thompson Divide area are worried it will come down to their communities and soon their pristine landscape will look like their neighbors' to the west. The threat has been hanging over them for a decade, but they are now trying to round up the votes in Congress to roll it back.

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Utilities to battery-powered solar: Get off our lawn

solar-panels-no
Shutterstock

In Wisconsin, utilities are jacking up the price to connect to their electrical grid. In Oklahoma, utilities pushed through a law this spring that allows them to charge the people who own solar panels and wind turbines more to connect to their electrical grid. In Arizona, the state has decided to charge extra property taxes to households that are leasing solar panels.

Welcome to the solar backlash. In Grist’s “Utilities for Dummies” series last year, David Roberts prophesied that solar and other renewables could “lay waste to U.S. power utilities and burn the utility business model, which has remained virtually unchanged for a century, to the ground.” And lo, it is coming to pass -- though not without a fight from the utilities first.

Read more: Climate & Energy