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Critical List: Midwest tornadoes kill 12; Shell sues environmental groups over Alaska drilling

Tornadoes tore through the Midwest, killing 12 people.

North Korea will stop testing nuclear weapons in exchange for food aid.

The Sierra Club's ripping it up. One of two Chicago coal-fired power plants that are now slated to close marks "the 100th coal plant retirement announced since January 2010.” That's about four every month!

Read more: Uncategorized

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Chicago goes coal-free

Activists have succeeded in getting Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel to shut down the city's two coal plants -- one of them by the end of the year. That doesn't mean the city is off coal power entirely, of course, but banishing coal plants from within the city limits will have a massive effect on urban health.

As Philip Radford wrote here on Grist last year, pollution from the Windy City's coal plants costs tens of thousands of lives:

Every year, the toxic pollution that spews from the smokestacks of America’s coal-fired power plants kills between 13,000 and 34,000 people, according to studies by the Clean Air Task Force and Harvard University. That staggering figure doesn’t include the carbon pollution -- one third of all U.S. emissions -- that is driving the planet into runaway climate change.

Read more: Coal

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New Center for PostNatural History is a museum of human influence on nature

One of the cool things about natural history museums is that they show you how nature has changed over time, adapting to volatile conditions and extreme challenges. And nothing is more volatile, extreme, or challenging than the human race, so it makes sense that there would be a museum to chronicle just how much we’ve messed with plants, animals, the climate, and in general the world around us. The Center for PostNatural History, opening this week in Pittsburgh, is that museum.

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Mexico City’s urbanization threatens ancient ‘floating gardens’

A man works his plot in the chinampas of Mexico City. (Photo by Eneas De Troya.)

Chinampas, or floating gardens -- small artificial islands full of crops, built up on shallow lake beds -- once sustained the Aztec capital of Tenochtitlan, producing multiple harvests every year. They still exist in Mexico City, feeding its rural citizens -- for now.

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Economist smacks down skeptics for misreading his research

William D. Nordhaus -- economist, Yale professor, serious person -- has taken to a serious publication, The New York Review of Books, to put the smackdown on climate skeptics.

The back story: Nordhaus has done working analysis of the economic impacts of implementing climate policies. In that awful Wall Street Journal op-ed we wrote about in January, a group of skeptics cited that work as proof that the country should do exactly nothing in the next 50 years to fight climate change. In his new article, Nordhaus approaches this and other claims with, as he says, "a cool head and a warm heart." But eventually he just has to tell them “you know nothing of my work.”

Read and learn from all his responses to skeptics' arguments, but for the juicy bits, skip to item six. Here is what Nordhaus has to say about skeptics' interpretation of his work:

Read more: Climate Skeptics

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Mailbox-sized libraries bring book-lending right to your yard

Photo by Jeremy Cusker.

Running a library is easier than you think. Forget the degree in library and information science and the carefully chosen prudish getups with easy-pull ripcords that turn them into sexy outfits. All you need is a box on a stick and a bunch of books to set up a Little Free Library, a front-yard stash that lets you share your love of reading with the community.

Read more: Living

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Woman arrested for burning down 3,500-year-old tree

Photo by Christopher Elliott.

This is the Senator, the largest pond cypress in the U.S. and, at 3,500 years old, the fifth-oldest individual tree in the world. Or anyway, this was the Senator, because on Jan. 16, the Florida tree burned from the inside out.

Authorities initially ruled out arson, saying that friction or smoldering lightning damage may have started the fire. But they've now ruled it right back in, arresting 26-year-old Sara Barnes for lighting the Senator on fire while sitting inside it doing meth.

Read more: Climate & Energy

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Heartland ‘expert’ taught climate denialism at a Canadian university

Hey, remember yesterday, when we told you about a video that imagines a world in which climate skepticism is taught in schools? It turns out that that world is not imaginary -- not at all. It exists today, and it is named … Canada.

For two years, Tom Harris, a man who according to the Heartland Institute is an "expert" on climate change, taught a course on the subject at Ottawa's Carleton University. Harris' course was meant for non-science majors, so, as the Guardian notes, it "may for many students be the only academic exposure they have to climate change while earning their undergraduate degree." When a group of scientists reviewed Harris' taped lectures they found 142 "erroneous" claims.

Read more: Climate Skeptics

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How to turn one piece of recycled cloth into 14 outfits and a bag

Image by {r}evolution apparel.

So the Lorax movie may be effing up left and right, but take heart, nostalgia-trippers: you can still own a real-life Thneed! The Versalette is a cylinder of domestically sourced, domestically made, recycled, organic fabric, whose ingenious construction allows it to turn into a dress, skirt, top, poncho, scarf, or bag. You can also almost certainly use it for curtains, or covers for bicycle seats.

Read more: Living

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Critical List: Olympia Snow retires; more people believe in global warming

Olympia Snowe, a moderate Republican who believed in global warming and even tried to do something about it, is retiring from the Senate.

Since it's getting warmer, more Americans believe in global warming, because of "personal observations of the weather." Sigh. That's not the correct reason to believe global warming is happening, but we'll take it. At least until next winter.

New York could double the speeding fines for electric bike riders to $1,000.

Wind farms that fly or float can help maximize production.

Read more: Uncategorized