Lakes of the Hudson Bay Lowlands, in northeast Canada, are showing evidence of abrupt change in one of the last Arctic regions of the world to have experienced global warming, according to Canadian research published in the Proceedings of the Royal Society B journal. The research team consisting of Kathleen Rühland, John Smol, and Neal Michelutti from Queen’s University Ontario, Andrew Paterson of Ontario’s Ministry of the Environment, and Bill Keller from the Laurentian University Ontario, retrieved sediment cores from lakes around the western shoreline of Hudson Bay and looked for changes in the microscopic algae that settle at the …
originally posted at Grip College students across the country are calling on their schools’ endowments to divest from fossil fuels. The campaign is taking off. But Harvard University President Drew Faust has rejected the idea, without responding to student requests for a public forum on the issue. In doing so, she turned her back on the institution’s mission: truth. The fossil fuel industry, supported in some part by the Harvard endowment, has stooped to a particular form of political manipulation that poses a direct, existential threat to the purposes of academia. They fund and disseminate climate disinformation and corrupt our …
Forget YouTube as your go-to 3:00 p.m. internet distraction. For me, it's the U.S. patent office website. There is some seriously wild stuff being invented by your fellow citizens, not least in the area of climate change mitigation and adaptation. Here are a few of my favorite climate-related patents issued recently by the office (I've added a little color to the design sketches):
Golf courses are hardly known for being paragons of environmentally friendly land use. They use a massive amount of water and have been found to be net carbon emitters [PDF], mainly due to land-clearing. But -- phew! -- there could soon be a way to shuck that green guilt and keep on swinging.
This episode of Inquiring Minds, a podcast hosted by best-selling author Chris Mooney and neuroscientist and musician Indre Viskontas, also features a discussion about why so many Ph.D.s today are unemployed and the surprising discovery that our brain cells actually have different DNA — different genetic codes within the same brain. To catch future shows right when they are released, subscribe to Inquiring Minds via iTunes. You can also follow the show on Twitter at @inquiringshow and like us on Facebook. Up until fairly recently, scientists, writers and philosophers alike have viewed human babies as little more than primitive adults. …
Environmental organizations -- even big, established ones -- move with the times. Preserving wilderness becomes concern over toxics becomes protecting big-eyed species becomes obsession over the Amazon rainforest. (I'm sure I'm missing a few steps in there.)
Today, they're moving into the next phase -- applying climate change science to the question of how to take care of the landscapes of the future.
Jeff Tittel, the outspoken director of the New Jersey Sierra Club, exemplifies these shifts. In the years he's been director he's worked on water issues, regulation of suburban sprawl, and restrictions on auto emissions. Now he works on flood insurance -- on the grounds that the way things are going, the landscapes we're trying to save aren't likely to stay put.
Q.So you're director of the Sierra Club in New Jersey. Why so interested in flood insurance? It doesn't jibe with my image of what the Sierra Club does.
A. It has to do with New Jersey being clobbered by Hurricane Sandy. Really, we got clobbered. Because of the Stafford Act, we keep on subsidizing building in the wrong places. The Biggert-Waters Act would change that, but it's getting weakened, even by our elected officials who are good on climate change. They're folding under constituent pressure. Our concern is that they're going to block these insurance increases and not make any changes, and that will put even more people in harm's way.
To slow climate change and protect the world's vulnerable poor from the effects of global warming, the West is going to have to give developing nations a hand. And that hand will need to come in the form of cold, hard cash.
Unfortunately, not a lot of that is on offer right now. That fact will take center stage during international climate talks in Poland over the next two weeks.
The U.N. Framework Convention on Climate Change's next Conference of the Parties, commonly known as a COP, begins Monday in Warsaw. Officials representing nearly 200 countries will bicker and beg as they try to move forward in the quest for a new agreement to replace the Kyoto Protocol. That deal was struck way back in 1997. The U.S. never ratified it, Canada ultimately walked away from it, and the agreement expired last year. It's been sticky-taped together through amendments to extend its life until a new agreement can be reached.
During COP talks in Durban, South Africa, in 2011, delegates struck a deal to strike a deal: They agreed to finalize an agreement by 2015 to replace the Kyoto Protocol. The new agreement would cap warming at 2 degrees Celsius (3.7 Fahrenheit) and begin to take force in 2020 -- and that's under a best-case scenario. Which is also a horrible-case scenario, given that the world's annual greenhouse gas emissions continue to rise every year.
The issue of equity is always one of the biggest sticking points in U.N. climate talks. How much should rich countries sacrifice and how much should developing countries sacrifice as they try to curb emissions together? It was during the talks in Durban that a solution to this conundrum was concocted: Rich countries would provide $100 billion a year by 2020 to help developing countries reduce emissions and adapt to the warming world.
Residents of the Gardens, a predominantly African American and Latino neighborhood in Mount Holly, N.J., brought the case against the township's governing officials. Those officials made plans in 2003 to demolish the entire Gardens neighborhood, saying it was too blighted to remain, so that they could build new, expensive housing in its place. They planned this “to save the people from that neighborhood,” as one unnamed former township official told Adam Serwer in his in-depth report on the case for MSNBC. (For a fuller profile of the neighborhood and the dispute, I highly recommend reading his story.)
But while this protracted legal battle started out as a group of residents fighting to save their homes, it has become a referendum on a pivotal legal standard under civil rights law. That legal standard, called “disparate impact,” allows a minority group to sue if it can prove that the effects of plans or policies will result in racial discrimination -- without having to prove that planners or policymakers intentionally set out to discriminate.
We told you on Monday about an open letter penned by James Hansen and three other prominent climate scientists calling on the world to ramp up development and deployment of "safer" nuclear power. The scientists argue that renewable energy isn't enough to spare the world from the wrath of global warming, and that the power of the atom needs to be better tapped to help get us off fossil fuels.
The issue of nuclear power bitterly divides environmentalists, so plenty of people were not pleased to hear Hansen, a darling of climate-activism circles, leading a call for more nuke power. Many of the environmentalists and scientists who have written rebuttals in recent days have focused on safety concerns and the flailing economics of nuclear power. Here are excerpts from a few of those rebuttals.
It was a textbook example of a corporation looking to buy an election result. After spending $1 million in a failed attempt to stifle local energy freedom in 2011, Xcel Energy poured over $500,000 of ratepayer money into a ballot measure to hamstring Boulder, Colo.'s exploration of a locally owned alternative to the largely fossil-fueled monopoly utility.
On Tuesday, people power buried Xcel. By a margin of 2-to-1, Boulder voters resoundingly rejected Question 310. As Stephen Fenberg of New Era Colorado said late that night, “Go home, Xcel. Your money is no good here.”
At stake was one community’s multi-year effort to power itself in a fashion that is more friendly to the local economy, to the climate, and to local oversight. It had previously culminated in a tough ballot fight in November 2011, when Xcel used ratepayer money to outspend locals 10-to-1 and still lost, as Boulder citizens narrowly granted the city permission to explore a clean-power-focused, city-owned utility.
Since then, the city and its citizen allies have turned traditional thinking on its head, envisioning a city-owned electric utility that maximizes local benefit rather than shareholder returns, that generates power in town rather than importing it, and that maximizes renewable energy instead of clinging to fossil fuels. They have rigorously studied other city-run utilities (29 others in Colorado alone) to learn best practices for running a local electric system. They have shown that switching to a locally owned utility could nearly triple renewable energy, halve greenhouse gas emissions, and compete on price with their current two-faced corporate overlords.
The opening scene in 12 Years a Slave shows the main character, Solomon Northup, an African American born free but fraudulently sold into slavery, standing with other enslaved black men amidst sugar cane stalks rivaling their height. It’s the 1840s, Deep South Louisiana, and the men have no more value than the sugar around them. A white slave driver demonstrates how they should swing their machetes to shear the cane stalks and roots with precision, so as not to render the crop unfit for processing.
“Don’t be scared of ’em,” the driver implores.
The enslaved men could use the blades as instruments of liberation, especially given that they clearly outnumber their drivers. But throughout the movie you watch in horror as their masters swing whips, boards, and even bottles at them with the same overarm fury demonstrated in the cane stalking, breaking any defiant spirit in the process.
12 Years a Slave, which opens in theaters nationwide on Friday, is the cinematic rendition of Northup’s memoir of the same name, first published in 1853. His story of how he was kidnapped and separated from his wife and children in Saratoga, N.Y., and tossed into the vortex of Southern chattel slavery was an awakening account of the atrocities of slavery during a time when many believed Southern slaves were unbothered by their condition.
It’s a classic American tale of white supremacy, evinced by the slave owners’ frequent fondling and flogging of innocent black laborers, and by the way slave owners pillage almost every sign of life they encounter on the Southern landscape. “The existence of Slavery in its most cruel form among them, has a tendency to brutalize the humane and finer feelings of their nature,” Northup wrote of the slave owners under whom he suffered.