If you want to understand how American politics changed for the worse, according to moral psychologist and bestselling author Jonathan Haidt, you need only compare two quotations from prominent Republicans, nearly 50 years apart.
The first is from the actor John Wayne, who on the election of John F. Kennedy in 1960 said, "I didn't vote for him, but he's my president and I hope he does a good job."
The second is from talk radio host Rush Limbaugh, who, on the inauguration of Barack Obama in 2009, said, "I hope he fails."
Remember a couple of weeks ago when you read about how Mitch McConnell and Sarah Palin threw a huge party to celebrate America’s newfound “energy independence"? No? That’s weird, maybe they forgot to invite the media.
The U.S. Energy Information Agency projected earlier this month “that the United States will be the world's top producer of petroleum and natural gas hydrocarbons in 2013, surpassing Russia and Saudi Arabia.”
The first town hall meeting concerning the risks of the proposed Cove Point LNG export terminal in Maryland was held Tuesday night, October 23. It was a big and rousing success. At least 300 people attended, most of them local residents. It was held at the Southern Community Center in Lusby, Md. in Calvert County, just a few miles from where Dominion Resources wants to build an industrial terminal to export fracked natural gas -- piped in from Appalachia -- and ship it to India and Japan. The $3.8 billion facility would chill the gas to 270 degrees below zero, …
When planning a recent trip to Beijing, I was delighted to see that the forecast predicted perfect weather: sunny, clear, highs in the 70s with no chance of rain. So imagine my surprise when on my first morning in the city, I looked out the window and saw a dense, immobile ceiling of dark gray clouds.
It wasn’t that Weather.com got it wrong. It was that pollution was unusually high that day -- the U.S. Embassy Air Quality Index (AQI) readings were over 400 parts per million of PM2.5, well into the “hazardous” range, and at least eight times what the embassy would deem completely non-dangerous. The embassy advises that under such conditions, “everyone should avoid all physical activity outdoors.” The particulate matter comes from the burning of fossil fuels in factories, coal-fired power plants, and cars -- the same culprits that cause climate change.
I had always imagined air pollution as a largely invisible phenomenon: It’s out there and it’s bad for you, but other than when it makes the sunset over New Jersey especially colorful, I had never actually seen it. During my trip to China, I had to get used to the idea that I didn’t need to bring my rain jacket just because it looked as if the sky was filled with ominous rain clouds. The friends I was visiting would schedule their jogging routines around low-pollution days, and keep the windows tightly shut when the AQI spiked. Some people walk around in face masks, as if they are extras in a horror film set in the post-nuclear apocalypse.
Over the last few days, the news media has been filled with stories of northeast China’s epically bad pollution. (Due to wind patterns, the pollution comes and goes and can vary dramatically.) As The Washington Post reported Tuesday:
Chicago. Los Angeles. Austin. Asheville. Wait, what? That's right, Asheville, North Carolina, can now join the ranks of cities that have chosen to move beyond coal. On Tuesday night the city council voted UNANIMOUSLY to move the city from coal-fired electricity toward a clean energy future. I was just in Asheville in July with my new friend Ian Somerhalder (of TV's "Vampire Diaries" fame) to speak at a rally where hundreds of people gathered to urge the city to invest in clean energy. Here's video from that rally... ...and now look at the fantastic results! This move by the city …
Germany is racing past 20 percent renewable energy on its electricity grid, but news stories stridently warn that this new wind and solar power is costing "billions." What is often left out (or buried far from the lede) is the overwhelming popularity of the country's relentless focus on energy change (energiewende).
How can a supposedly expensive effort to clean up the energy supply be so popular?
The last time America's carbon dioxide emissions were this low, Nelson Mandela was being inaugurated as South Africa's president, O.J. Simpson was being chased by police in a white Bronco, and Bill Clinton and Boris Yeltsin were agreeing to ease up on the whole let's-point-countless-nukes-at-each-other thing.
U.S. energy-related CO2 emissions steadily rose from the mid-90s until they hit a peak in 2007. Since then, emissions have fallen in five out of seven years. In 2012, emissions were 12 percent below the 2007 level, dipping back to 1994 levels. That's according to data released Tuesday by the U.S. Energy Information Administration:
Let's celebrate with a trip down memory lane. Here are the reasons the EIA gives for America's falling emissions, set to a soundtrack of some of the biggest hits of 1994.
If you have an image in your head when you think "plow," it’s probably a moldboard plow: a deep cutting edge that swoops up and out into a curved wing, the moldboard. As the plow moves forward, it lifts the earth and flips it, inverting sod into neat lines of corduroy.
The point of plowing is to kill. It wipes out perennial plants and buries seeds deeply enough that they’ll never have a chance to grow. There’s something beautiful about the plow and its action of bringing linear order to the chaos of a weedy field. But there’s nothing natural about the act. Nature only rarely turns the land upside down -- only during disasters.
As a result, soil organisms have not evolved to thrive in this kind of tillage. Soil ecosystems, made up of insects and worms, microbes and fungi, are arranged according to depth and chemical needs. For instance, many soil microbes near the surface need oxygen, but oxygen is toxic to others that live deeper down. This ecosystem responds to being turned upside-down the same way a rainforest would: It falls apart. In the process, soil erodes, waterways are polluted, and greenhouse gases are released.
Monsanto and its competitors advertised herbicide-tolerant transgenic plants as a solution to this problem. Instead of plowing, you could use chemicals to deal with the weeds. Genetic engineering would lead to a boom in no-till farming, company representatives said.
Is that what actually happened? There are indeed farmers around the world who have embraced no-till farming because herbicide-tolerant corn made it easier. But judging from the statistics, most low- or no-till farmers in the U.S. are more like Brian Scott.
A new study released Sunday concludes that Koch Industries and its subsidiaries stand to make as much as $100 billion in profits if the controversial Keystone XL pipeline is given the go-ahead by President Obama.
The report, titled "Billionaires' Carbon Bomb," and produced by the think tank International Forum on Globalization, finds that David and Charles Koch and their privately owned company, Koch Industries, own more than 2 million acres of land in Northern Alberta, the source of the tar-sands oil that will be pumped to the United States via the Keystone XL pipeline.
The government shutdown might be over, but for some climate scientists the headache is just beginning. During the shutdown, National Science Foundation-funded research facilities in Antarctica -- where some of the world's most important climate research takes place -- were left with a skeleton staff at just the time of year they would normally be coming back to life after a long, dark winter.
On its first day back online, NSF released a statement saying it would salvage the research season "to the maximum extent possible," without giving a definite timeline. NSF warned that "certain research and operations activities may be deferred until next year's austral research season." For scientists studying everything from ocean acidification to earthquakes to seal pups, the 16 days of the shutdown were 16 missed opportunities to collect irreplaceable data.
One of those scientists was Gretchen Hofmann, a marine biologist at the University of California, Santa Barbara, who published a column Friday in Nature about her frustration with the shutdown and its long-term impacts on basic research. As Hofmann and her peers stand by for word from NSF, we spoke to her about how some of the worst pain from the last two weeks could be felt by the next generation of up-and-coming scientists.
Q.What have the last couple weeks been like for you?