Is Chevron more clued in to the dangers of fracking than the federal government?
It would seem so. The company's CEO said this week that the industry needs to do a better job of resolving concerns about the safety of the practice. From Bloomberg:
Energy producers must deal with the “legitimate concerns” that gas development associated with hydraulic fracturing is unsafe by adopting tougher standards, Chevron Corp. Chief Executive Officer John Watson said. ...
Even as bees drop dead around the world after sucking down pesticide-laced nectar, pesticide makers are touting their investments in bee research.
Nearly a third of commercial honeybee colonies in U.S. were wiped out last year, for a complicated array of reasons, scientists say: disease, stress, poor nutrition, mite infestations, and — yes — pesticides. Neonicotinoid pesticides seem to be particularly damaging to bees, so much so that the European Union is moving to ban them (but the U.S. is not).
If you're going to prank the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, you'd better brace yourself for a long legal battle.
It's been almost four years since the Yes Men conned reporters into thinking the chamber was finally warming up to the dangers of climate change. The tricksters put up a fake website and sent out a fake press release under the chamber's name, fooling a number of mainstream news outlets into believing that the business group had reversed course and decided to support climate legislation. The Yes Men also held a fake news conference, which went on for a number of minutes before an actual chamber spokesman barged in and busted it up (video is below).
Laughs were had, feelings were hurt, confusion reigned for the better part of five minutes, and then, of course, the stodgy old men in ties talked to their lawyers and filed the inevitable lawsuit.
On Friday, with court proceedings in the stalled case finally set to get underway, the stodgy old men in ties backed down. From The Wall Street Journal:
The days of agricultural plenty are over and it's going to keep getting harder for everybody to afford enough food to eat.
That's the somber conclusion of a new international report, which warns that low food prices "seem now a feature of a bygone era." Blame climate change, degraded land, growing populations, and increasing energy costs.
"[W]ith energy prices high and rising and production growth declining across the board, strong demand for food, feed, fibre and industrial uses of agricultural products is leading to structurally higher prices and with significant upside price risks," states the 10-year agricultural outlook [PDF] published by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) and the U.N.'s Food and Agriculture Organization.
The report notes that “increasing environmental pressures” — which include climate change-fueled storms, drought and flooding — will be one of the main factors slowing the growth of food production around the world. In China in particular — a country the report focused on, with a fifth of the world’s population and steadily rising income levels — water shortages will be one of the key problems facing food production as rainfall becomes more variable. And there will be other risks for China as well. As the report notes: “Food availability will be impacted by changes in temperature, water availability, extreme weather events, soil condition, and pest and disease patterns.”
BP's oil-spill cleanup operations have formally wrapped up in three of the four states that were polluted following the explosion of the Deepwater Horizon oil rig in 2010.
After more than three years of cleanup, that sounds like an occasion to party and then relax. But it isn't. Not only has the Gulf Coast not recovered from the oil spill, but the hard work of environmental restoration has barely even begun. From the Associated Press:
The London-based oil giant said the Coast Guard has concluded “active cleanup operations” in Mississippi, Alabama and Florida, but the work continues along 84 miles of Louisiana’s shoreline. ...
A new report [PDF] from the inspector general of the Interior Department reveals that the Bureau of Land Management routinely underestimates the value of coal, letting companies like Peabody and Arch Coal snap up federal mining rights for a song, often with little or no competition. More than 80 percent of coal leases up for auction in the past 20 years received only one bid, the report found.
The report said that the process by which the value of the leases is computed is faulty, costing the government millions. At the current rate of coal leasing, the inspector general found, every penny-a-ton undervaluation costs the taxpayers $3 million.
New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg laid out an ambitious plan today to fortify the city against the extreme weather and storms we can expect thanks to a changing climate. “This is a defining challenge of our future,” Bloomberg said in a speech at the Brooklyn Navy Yard.
The plan, estimated to cost $20 billion, includes 250 recommendations in all, covering everything from erecting bulkheads and levees to retrofitting old buildings to protecting the city’s power infrastructure. (Fifty-three percent of NYC’s power plants currently sit within the 100-year floodplain, and by the 2050s, 90 percent could be in that danger zone.)
The plan covers so many different parts of the city and calls for such a wide array of proposals that the estimated price tag could change – and given the history of large infrastructure projects, that means the cost is likely to grow.
The price estimate also does not include some of the more ambitious projects envisioned in the report that require further study, like the construction of a so-called Seaport City, just south of the Brooklyn Bridge in Manhattan, modeled after Battery Park City, which would protect Lower Manhattan but cost billions.
The administration said that roughly half of the currently estimated $20 billion cost of the next decade would be covered by federal and city money that had already been allocated in the capital budget and that an additional $5 billion would be covered by expected aid that Congress had already appropriated. Most of that money was allocated, through a variety of programs, in the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy, according to the report.
While a $20 billion price tag sounds staggering, Bloomberg pointed out that Hurricane Sandy alone did $19 billion in damage to the city, and that a future storm could cause as much as $90 billion worth of destruction.
The world is driving itself into a future of climate hell, but experts say it's not too late to take the off-ramp.
Despite declining greenhouse gas emissions in the U.S. and other developed nations, global emissions broke a new record last year. They were pushed 1.4 percent higher than the year before by rapid growth in China and India, and by Japan turning to fossil fuels instead of nuclear power.
During U.N. climate negotiations held in Copenhagen in 2009, most of the world agreed to aim for a post-Industrial Revolution temperature rise of no more than 2 degrees Celsius. But if the world keeps traveling along its current path, the International Energy Agency warns in a new report that long-term average temperature increases of between 3.6 and 5.3 degrees C are more likely.
Climate negotiations are underway to agree on a successor to the Kyoto Protocol, which could help stem the tide of rising emissions. But no new agreement is expected to come into force until 2020 -- and who knows if it would even be strong enough to make a difference.
So it would be easy to conclude that we're royally fucked.
But in its new report, the IEA outlines four strategies that countries could pursue during the next seven years to help spare us the "royally fucked" scenario of skyrocketing temperatures -- all at zero net economic cost.
The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration is trying to figure out how to meet sequester cuts demanded by Congress -- without upsetting Congress by furloughing the agency's weather forecasters.
One proposed solution might sound fine if you just want to know what the weather will be like tomorrow, but it's not so fine if you care about improving the accuracy of such forecasts in the coming years.
An earlier proposal from NOAA that would have required employees of the National Weather Service to take some furlough days this year was recently nixed amid tornado-induced horror at the thought of meteorologists being kept away from work.
The agency's new plan would see funds drained instead from the COSMIC-2 satellite program, the second phase planned in a joint U.S.-Taiwan project that aims to improve weather forecasting. From Politico:
“The beauty of this program is it generates an extraordinary amount of useful data and we don’t have to pay the whole freight,” said Clifford Mass, a professor of atmospheric sciences at the University of Washington.
“It is an extraordinary mistake to take away the money,” he told POLITICO. “This will be really controversial in the discipline.” ...
That's pretty much all the untrustworthy company had to say to win yet another round in a drawn-out court battle with organic farmers and seed producers.
The U.S. court system is refusing to protect the organic growers from future Monsanto lawsuits in the event that traces of genetically engineered genes accidentally end up in the farmers' crops. That's because of a single paragraph on the biotech giant's website that says it has no such litigious intentions.