Historians may look to 2015 as the year when shit really started hitting the fan. Some snapshots: In just the past few months, record-setting heat waves in Pakistan and India each killed more than 1,000 people. In Washington state's Olympic National Park, the rainforest caught fire for the first time in living memory. London reached 98 degrees Fahrenheit during the hottest July day ever recorded in the U.K.; The Guardian briefly had to pause its live blog of the heat wave because its computer servers overheated. In California, suffering from its worst drought in a millennium, a 50-acre brush fire swelled seventyfold in a matter of hours, jumping across the I-15 freeway during rush-hour traffic. Then, a few days later, the region was pounded by intense, virtually unheard-of summer rains.
Wildfires continue to rage in California, where the largest of the 21 blazes covered 65,000 acres Tuesday morning and has killed at least one person.
Four other people have been killed this fire season in California, which started early this year and has been exacerbated by drought and high temperatures. There are also active wildfires in Oregon, Washington, Wyoming, and Alaska.
In a major victory for America’s largest rainforest, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit struck down a Bush administration exemption of the Tongass National Forest from the “Roadless Rule,” a landmark conservation rule adopted in 2001 to protect nearly 60 million acres of wild national forests and grasslands from new road building and logging. The Court held the Bush administration failed to provide a reasoned explanation for reversing course on the Tongass. It concluded the Roadless Rule “remains in effect and applies to the Tongass.”
New research suggests that the impact of shale gas on curbing US carbon emissions has been overstated.
Politicians have argued that the US was able to significantly reduce CO2 between 2007 and 2013 because of fracking.
But scientists now believe an 11% cut in emissions in that period was chiefly due to economic recession.
The study suggests that the future impacts of shale as a way of curbing carbon may be limited.
In what may prove to be a turning point for political action on climate change, a breathtaking new study casts extreme doubt about the near-term stability of global sea levels.
The study—written by James Hansen, NASA’s former lead climate scientist, and 16 co-authors, many of whom are considered among the top in their fields—concludes that glaciers in Greenland and Antarctica will melt 10 times faster than previous consensus estimates, resulting in sea level rise of at least 10 feet in as little as 50 years. The study, which has not yet been peer reviewed, brings new importance to a feedback loop in the ocean near Antarctica that results in cooler freshwater from melting glaciers forcing warmer, saltier water underneath the ice sheets, speeding up the melting rate. Hansen, who is known for being alarmist and also right, acknowledges that his study implies change far beyond previous consensus estimates. In a conference call with reporters, he said he hoped the new findings would be “substantially more persuasive than anything previously published.” I certainly find them to be.
In normal years, California residents get about 30 percent of their drinking water from underground aquifers. And in droughts like the current one—with sources like snowmelt from the Sierra Nevada mountains virtually non-existent—groundwater supplies two-thirds of our most populous state's water needs. So it's sobering news that about 20 percent of the groundwater that Californians rely on to keep their taps flowing carries high concentrations of contaminants like arsenic, uranium, and nitrate.
That's the conclusion of a ten-year US Geological Survey study of 11,000 public-water wells across the state. The researchers tested the wells for a variety of contaminants, looking for levels above thresholds set by the Environmental Protection Agency and/or the California State Water Resources Board.
When Gov. Jerry Brown visits the Vatican this week for an international conference, he'll be carrying a resolution from state lawmakers supporting Pope Francis' recent encyclical on climate change.
He's hoping the Legislature will send an even stronger message later this year by passing new environmental rules aimed at helping California slash greenhouse-gas emissions over the next few decades.
Approval of the legislation, intended to enact goals outlined by the governor this year, would bolster Brown's calls for global action on climate change with a display of regulatory muscle in his own state.
A pipeline at Nexen's Long Lake oilsands project in northeastern Alberta has failed, spilling an estimated five million litres of bitumen, produced water and sand.
The company, which was taken over by China's CNOOC Ltd. in 2013, said the affected area is about 16,000 square metres, mostly along the pipeline's route.
The company and the Alberta Energy Regulator say it's too soon to say what might have caused the leak.
Lawsuit Challenges California's New Fracking Regulation, Which Discriminate Against Latino Children
Today, a Kern County family is suing Governor Jerry Brown, claiming that California's new fracking regulations do not protect the health of Latino public school children. The lawsuit, filed by the Center on Race, Poverty and the Environment, argues the new fracking regulations illegally discriminate against Latino public school children, who are disproportionately affected by the negative impacts of fracking in their neighborhoods.
California's Government Code section 11135 prohibits the state from intentional or unintentional discrimination on the basis of race. The suit, which names Governor Brown and California Oil and Gas Supervisor Steve Bohlen as defendants, claims that the state is discriminating against Latino students by permitting wells in close proximity to schools they attend.
The first thing Violet Branch does when she wakes up is to inhale through her nose to see whether the smell of hog excrement from across the street has seeped into her home again.
“Sometimes when I wake up the odor is in the house. Sometimes before I go to bed, the odor is in the house,” says Branch, 71, who lives next door to a swine farmer who keeps two lakes filled with a swampy mixture of feces and urine that he periodically spreads on his crops as fertilizer. An acrid odor of rotting eggs fills her yard at least twice a week and occasionally her home, giving her nausea and on some occasions causing her to vomit. All she can do is wait until it passes or ask her son who lives next door to drive her to the nearby Walmart where she paces the aisles until her breathing returns to normal.