Japan is, understandably, shifting away from nuclear energy in the wake of the disastrous 2011 meltdown at the Fukushima nuclear power station. Reuters reports: "Japan plans to start up 14 new gas and coal-fired power plants by the end of 2014, allowing a switch away from pricey oil, as Tokyo struggles with a shutdown of nuclear reactors and energy imports drive a record trade deficit."
It makes sense that Japan would seek to diversify its energy portfolio after seeing the horrific consequences of a nuclear disaster. But the Reuters story reveals the frustrating limitations of the wider energy policy discussion.
Our results suggest that the entire world's ocean surface will be simultaneously impacted by varying intensities of ocean warming, acidification, oxygen depletion, or shortfalls in productivity. Only a very small fraction of the oceans, mostly in polar regions, will face the opposing effects of increases in oxygen or productivity, and almost nowhere will there be cooling or pH increase. ...
The social ramifications are also likely to be massive and challenging as some 470 to 870 million people – who can least afford dramatic changes to their livelihoods – live in areas where ocean goods and services could be compromised by substantial changes in ocean biogeochemistry.
When Laura Krouse heard the roar of a crop duster as it flew low, ducking under utility wires to lay down a blanket of herbicides, she sprang into action. Working deftly, she set up a small air vacuum resembling a clothes hanging rod close to her field of vegetables, corn, and hay, not far from where the plane was spraying the neighbor’s 10,000-acre farm. There, it would inhale samples of the air to later be tested to see if the chemicals were drifting onto her land.
Upon seeing Krouse, the pilot circled low enough that she could see his face. His expression read, Just what is that you’re doing, Laura? “He was checking on me,” Krouse says, “and if anyone dare ask, I’d tell them straight out that I’m taking air samples.”
Krouse, who for 25 years has run the 72-acre Abbe Hills Farm in Mt. Vernon, Iowa, is a drift catcher, a toughened breed of farmers who are taking matters concerning the threats of agricultural chemicals into their own hands. She is among 20 Iowa farmers who last winter trained with the California-based Pesticide Action Network (PAN) to use the air monitoring technology PAN specifically designed for laymen. Back home, the farmers took air samples during spraying times throughout this past season.
“I grow vegetables that are susceptible to certain weedkillers, many of which my neighbors use,” says Krouse, who uses organic practices, though her farm is not certified organic. “All it takes is for some of the tomatoes and veggies to get a whiff of a herbicide and they show damage.”
There was a fistfight over corndogs at my first Meatpaper party. We were crowded up against the kitchen counter at Camino, a restaurant in Oakland, Calif., with brick walls and a big open fireplace. They were cooking a whole pig in that fireplace, dispensing plates of flesh to the crowd on the other side of the counter. To get some pig you had to push your way into this mosh pit and lunge for a platter when it emerged. You’d come away with a handful of something -- though not necessarily something readily identifiable: Chitlins? Head cheese?
I’ll admit that I didn’t see the fistfight -- I heard there were punches thrown, but perhaps it was just a scuffle. The story could have been embellished as it spread around the room. But it wouldn’t surprise me if somebody lashed out when denied homemade corndogs. I retreated from my excursion to the front of the restaurant, coddling a handful of offal and breathing hard.
For years, the editors at Meatpaper (I was one) considered writing about this high-testosterone meat frenzy, but we never did. It recurred at many of our parties. Meatpaper was a tiny, beautiful magazine. It was started by two former vegetarians, Amy Standen and Sasha Wizansky, with conflicting feelings about meat. It just published its 20th, and last, issue. The parties were the yin to the magazine’s yang. The magazine was poor, primarily female, and sensitively nuanced. The parties were sold out, joyfully macho, and boisterous to the point of anarchy.
The L.A. Times recently won national attention and praise for spelling out its policy of refusing to publish the claims of climate deniers.
"Letters that have an untrue basis (for example, ones that say there’s no sign humans have caused climate change) do not get printed," the letters page editor wrote.
Now, readers of other major newspapers are calling on their favored media outlets to adopt the same policy.
Forecast the Facts, a project that aims to improve the quality of coverage of climate change in the press, launched a petition calling on the New York Times, Washington Post, USA Today, and Wall Street Journal to refuse to print letters that deny basic science.
"The Los Angeles Times has adopted a policy of refusing to publish letters that deny climate change, and you should follow suit," the petition states. "End climate change denial in your newspaper."
The court accepted six separate petitions that sought to roll back EPA's clout over carbon dioxide emissions from power plants. That could signal the court's dissatisfaction with a 2012 ruling by the nation's second most powerful court -- the federal appeals court for the District of Columbia Circuit -- affirming the agency's authority.
Yes, of course BP was negligent when it allowed at least 500,000 pounds of toxic gases to stream out of a refinery in Texas City, Texas, for 40 days in 2010.
So ruled a Texas jury. But that's where the good news out of a lawsuit that could affect 48,000 refinery neighbors ends. Despite the company's negligence, a jury concluded that the fumes it released, which contained such cancer-causing chemicals as benzene and nitrogen oxides, caused no harm to its neighbors.
The Houston Chronicle reported that a 12-person jury deliberated for nearly three days before concluding that BP had been negligent but that it was to be absolved of wrongdoing:
"Today's verdict affirms BP's view that no one suffered any injury as a result of the flaring of the BP Ultracracker flare during April and May 2010," BP spokesman Scott Dean said. "Armed with the knowledge gleaned from this case and this important jury verdict, the company will immediately begin to prepare for any additional proceedings involving other plaintiffs."
In 2011, videogame developer Tami Johnson, then 29, wanted to create an outdoor community space for her neighborhood in Brooklyn. In search of just the right spot, Johnson found an unusual website that mapped all the borough’s vacant lots. It was like a Zillow for perfectly good land obscured by urban blight. She scrolled through and found 348 Bergen Street.
The lot was small, less than a 10th of an acre, and narrow as a brownstone, with twisted trees, tall grass and, of course, take-out wrappers from some of Brooklyn’s finest restaurants.
The website linked Johnson to neighbors who also wanted to build something on Bergen Street. Together, they got the owner’s permission to borrow the lot, then crammed it with amenities: a working farm, beehives, a garden raising ingredients for a local dinner church, and a natural dye garden for a nearby arts center. They started a community composting operation and hosted exhibits, concerts, and classes. They named the place A Small Green Patch.
The group that made it all possible by creating that online map is a nonprofit called 596 Acres. The organization formed in 2011, when lawyer Paula Z. Segal and programmer Eric Brelsford teamed up to promote the potential of Brooklyn’s fallow acres. (You guessed it -- there were 596 of them.) The first lot they helped secure was 462 Halsey, now a community garden. They have subsequently helped organize more than 100 campaigns and liberated 17 lots, with 10 more in the works.
Since the late 1990s, mountain pine beetles have swept through millions of acres of forest in the Rockies, turning hillsides of trees a rusty red and then grey as they populate trees and kill them. In Colorado, this outbreak seems to have peaked in 2008 and 2009; but just as one species slowed, another -- the spruce beetle -- has picked up steam. A new University of Colorado study published in Ecology reveals how drought was the driver of the rise in spruce beetle activity and resulting tree deaths in Colorado's high-elevation forests in recent years. The drought is in turn linked to changes in sea surface temperatures that are expected to continue for decades to come. In the long-term, such massive insect infestations could dramatically diminish North American forests' ability to retain water and sequester carbon — meaning trees will be less effective at balancing out the human toll on the environment.
So far, fewer acres of trees have been affected by spruce beetles than mountain pine beetles, but there are more spruce forests in Colorado than Lodgepole pine, so there's "no reason to expect the percentage mortality to be less or acreage affected to be any less" than it was for the mountain pine beetle epidemic, said Tom Veblen, coauthor of the study and a geography professor at CU.
Lead author Sarah Hart remembers flying over British Colombia in 2007 and seeing endless stretches of red trees killed by mountain pine beetles. When she moved to Colorado, a spruce beetle outbreak had started to turn heads in the area, prompting her to look deeper into its underlying causes.
Raise a glass to these German scientists, who are working out a way to protect a key beer ingredient from climate change. As Oktoberfest rages on, geneticist Nils Stein is deciphering the genome of barley, looking for genes that could help the plant survive through droughts. The study's implications go beyond these beer tents. Barley is the fourth most-produced cereal in the world; a recent drought in Russia that hurt barley production led to a global price spike. And a drought that devastated Syria's barley crop contributed to that country's civil war. Join Climate Desk on a trip from some of the world's most advanced greenhouses to the rowdy crowds of Munich.