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Gristmill: Fresh, whole-brain news.


Fracking chemicals could mess with your hormones

fracking chemicals

Feeling overly hormonal? Not hormonal enough? Just wait for frackers to move into your neighborhood and let them throw the medical dice for you. Fracking chemicals have been found to screw with many of the hormones that control a wide range of important bodily functions.

Last year, a team of researchers reported that fracking chemicals found in water samples from a heavily fracked region of Colorado messed with human estrogen and androgen receptors in laboratory experiments. Those scientists linked Colorado's fracking binge with "moderate levels" of such chemicals in the Colorado River, which is a major source of drinking water. That's screwed up, because those hormones help us maintain sexual health.

But it gets worse. Preliminary findings of a followup study were presented this week by one of the same research team members during a joint meeting of the International Society of Endocrinology and the Endocrine Society. The early findings suggest that it's not just sex hormones that frackers can mess with.

The researchers analyzed 24 chemicals commonly used by frackers -- noting that those chemicals represent a small subset of the hundreds of chemicals used in fracking, many of which are kept secret. Not only were most of the studied chemicals found to mess with our estrogen and androgen systems, but some of them were also found to affect hormones that prepare our bodies for pregnancy (progesterone), that break down sugar (glucocorticoid), and that regulate growth and development (the thyroid system). Only one of the 24 chemicals did not affect any of the hormonal systems studied.


free money

Climate action could spur $2 trillion in economic growth in 2030 alone

traffic jam
John Upton
Unclogging streets in India could encourage economic growth and help save the climate at the same time.

Republicans in Congress, dim-witted politicians abroad, and fossil-fuel companies would all like you to believe that taking action on climate change is too expensive. Better to blow all our cash and credit on unsustainable oil and coal today and live large and dirty for as long as possible, they argue.

Cue World Bank study.

The international lender, which has been belatedly waking up to the dangers of climate change in recent years, modeled the potential costs and benefits of using taxes, incentives, and regulations to clean up key sectors of some of the world's biggest economies. It analyzed reforms that could spur cleaner transportation, more efficient industrial use of energy, and less energy-hungry buildings and appliances. It concluded that such reforms would create GDP growth of $1.8 trillion to $2.6 trillion per year by 2030.

Oh, and it would prevent 94,000 premature deaths annually.

Read more: Climate & Energy


Spring record breakers

We just had the hottest May on record (until next May)


NOAA’s monthly State of the Climate report came out and, spoiler alert, it wasn’t good. It turns out May 2014 was the hottest May on record, which shouldn’t really come as a surprise as four of the five hottest Mays in the recorded history of May came in the last five years. More good news: After a blazing first five months of the year, the impending El Nino could push 2014 to the top of the climate charts as the warmest year in recorded history. Terrell Johnson and Jon Erdman at had this to say:

Read more: Climate & Energy


Atlas unshrugged

Thanks to shrinking sea ice, National Geographic puts global warming on the map


Every once in awhile, we reach a moment in history that so radically changes our concept of the world it forces us to redraw our maps -- events like Columbus rediscovering America or the Soviet Union collapsing. Now we can add global warming to the list.

For the upcoming 10th edition of the National Geographic Atlas of the World, its cartographers say they have made one of the most visible changes in the publication’s history: it’ll show a lot less Arctic ice.

The loss of Arctic sea ice has been a glaring sign of climate change for the last thirty-some years. Rising temperatures have caused the ice to retreat by 12 percent per decade since the 1970s, with particularly notable setbacks in 2007 and 2012. Arctic sea ice is so responsive to climate change because of a positive feedback loop: As the ice melts it gets thinner, and because thin ice reflects less sun than thick ice, the ocean absorbs more of that heat – which weakens the ice even more.

None of which bodes well for the Arctic's icy future. “With the trend that we are seeing now, it’s very likely that there will be a day within this century that there will no longer be ice in the arctic,” NASA scientist Josefino Comiso tells National Geographic.

Arctic sea ice minimum in September of 1979  and in September of 2011.
Arctic sea ice minimum in September of 1979 and in September of 2011.
Read more: Climate & Energy


The cities have spoken

U.S. mayors call for emergency action on climate change

emergency action needed on climate change

America's mayors have sent an urgent message to federal lawmakers -- and to the nation: "Emergency action" is needed on climate change.

The U.S. Conference of Mayors, a bipartisan group that represents the leaders of 1,400 cities, each of which is home to at least 30,000 people, has called on the Obama administration and Congress to "enact an Emergency Climate Protection law that provides a framework and funding for the implementation ... of a comprehensive national plan" to reduce greenhouse gas pollution.

If members of Congress understood the urgency of climate change as well as the nation's mayors do, we might not be in as much of a screwed-up climate situation as we are in today.

The resolution, which was approved by delegates during four days of meetings in Dallas, expresses strong support for the EPA's draft rules on power-plant pollution. It also calls on Congress to hurry up and extend renewable energy tax credits.

Another resolution approved by the group endorses the establishment of Obama's proposed $1 billion climate-adaptation fund.


a tough way to make money

Disprove global warming, score $10,000

no money

Hey, unwelcome anti-science trolls visiting this site, you could make yourselves $10,000 richer -- if only your climate denialism had any actual grounding in science.

Physicist Christopher Keating, who has in the past accurately compared climate deniers to tobacco advocates, announced on his blog early this month that he would make a $10,000 payment "to anyone that can prove, via the scientific method, that man-made global climate change is not occurring."

Read more: Climate & Energy, Living


What you don't know can hurt you

Pennsylvania ordered its health workers to never discuss fracking

Pennsylvania won't discuss fracking

In the heavily fracked Keystone State, the economic interests of frackers trump the health concerns of residents.

That much is abundantly clear in the wake of an extraordinary story by StateImpact Pennsylvania, which interviewed two retired state health department workers. The former workers say they were ordered to not return the phone calls of residents who complained that nearby fracking was harming their health. Instead, they were told to pass messages on to their superiors, who apparently never returned the calls either. The health workers were also given a list of fracking-related "buzzwords" to watch out for:


say what?

NATO chief accuses fracking opponents of being Russian puppets

Anders Fogh Rasmussen
Chatham House
NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen is suspicious of anti-fracking activists.

Russia doesn't want Europe fracking for natural gas because Russia wants to keep exporting natural gas there itself. And environmental groups don't want Europe fracking for natural gas because, well, because fracking is an environmentally heinous method of getting a climatically heinous fuel out of the ground. But Russia and environmentalists are not friends. Russia locked up green activists on trumped-up charges for criticizing the environmental impacts of the recent Winter Olympics. And Russia locked up members of Greenpeace for three months late last year after they attempted to scale an oil rig to protest Arctic drilling.

But if NATO's secretary general is to believed, opposition by Greenpeace and other environmental organizations to fracking is the result of infiltration or collusion involving Russian agents.

"I have met allies who can report that Russia, as part of their sophisticated information and disinformation operations, engages actively with so-called non-governmental organizations, environmental organizations working against shale gas -- obviously to maintain European dependence on imported Russian gas," said NATO's Anders Fogh Rasmussen, the former prime minister of Denmark, during a talk at the Chatham House international affairs think tank in London on Thursday.

Well, obviously. But who are these allies? Has Russia sent undercover operatives to sneak into green groups? Or is there some sort of collaboration between the should-be foes?

Rasmussen didn't elaborate. “That’s my interpretation," he said.


Tell the EPA what you think of its climate rules

woman with megaphone

You know those proposed EPA power-plant rules that we've been going on and on and on about? Now you can go on and on and on about them yourself.

The Obama administration has opened up the official 120-day public comment period, after the proposal was published in the Federal Register. The EPA will accept feedback through Oct. 16, so now's the time to speak your mind.

Here's how to comment.


out damn spot

Federal bill would wash away plastic microbead problem

products containing microbeads
Eric T. Schneiderman Facebook page

Could America's bathroom cabinets finally be cleansed of tiny ecosystem-disrupting plastic beads?

Ecologists, activists, and lawmakers in a number of states have grown increasingly alarmed at exfoliating plastic microbeads in products such as face wash, toothpaste, and shampoo, which wash down drains and end up in lakes, rivers, and oceans. Earlier this month, Illinois became the first state to outlaw the manufacture and sale of grooming products containing the microbeads, starting in 2017.

Now microbead worries have simmered up to Congress. Rep. Frank Pallone, Jr. (D-N.J.) on Wednesday introduced a bead-banning bill. From his press release: