Peoples Home Equity comments on the latest weekly mortgage application figures.
(PRWeb March 27, 2015)
Read the full story at http://www.prweb.com/releases/2015/03/prweb12616409.htm
The Federal Savings Bank offers 5 tips on how to make a home safer from common risks.
(PRWeb March 27, 2015)
Read the full story at http://www.prweb.com/releases/2015/03/prweb12616413.htm
Yearly celebration to honor local peanut industry.
(PRWeb March 27, 2015)
Read the full story at http://www.prweb.com/releases/2015/03/prweb12616023.htm
Hello! It is now the weekend, which means that if you are a socially inclined person with active loins, you may be trying to get laid tonight. And godspeed in those efforts — I mean it! I truly wish you the best.
But — I’m sorry — we need to talk about something.
We’ve been over why using protection shouldn’t even be a question, but to sum up very quickly: Unplanned babies and STDs. Maybe you’ve joined the long-acting reversible contraceptive army, but if you’re sleeping with someone new (good for you! I’m serious!) you should still probably be using condoms until you’ve both been tested — which brings me to that thing we need to talk about.
Are we really still flushing condoms down the toilet?
People — COME ON.
It’s not like throwing condoms in the regular garbage is such a perfect practice. Landfill trash is landfill trash! And while latex, which most condoms are made of, is naturally biodegradable, many brands add artificial agents to ensure that the condom doesn’t break — which, you know, is the whole idea.
But here is the thing: Condoms flushed down the toilet just end up in the landfill anyway, but through a much more complicated and labor-intensive mechanism. Nothing that’s flushed down the toilet disappears — a fact made abundantly clear in a recent New York Times piece describing in detail the accumulation of “flushable” baby wipes in the sewer system. Here’s a quote to haunt your nightmares:
Often, the wipes combine with other materials, like congealed grease, to create a sort of superknot. “They’re really indestructible,” said Vincent Sapienza, a deputy commissioner for the city’s Department of Environmental Protection. “I guess that’s the purpose.”
Allow flushed condoms to add to said nightmares. From The Guardian:
“I’ve been down the sewers in central London and seen what appear to be fish on the surface. They’re actually condoms filled with air, bobbing around. It is pretty grim.”
Essentially, when you put a used condom in the sewer system, someone has to remove it.
Of all the things that our overtaxed and underfunded water treatment systems have to deal with already, your sticky, soiled prophylactics should not take priority. They shouldn’t even be there at all! There is no reason! The only way to properly dispose of a condom is to wrap it in a reasonable amount of tissue — no baseball-sized wads, please — and put it in the trash. Just do that. Simple and discrete!
Have a delightful, sexy weekend, and after romping around with your partner of choice, kindly deposit your condom in the goddamn garbage can.
Filed under: Cities, Living
A property management company in San Francisco has spent the last several months handing out eviction notices to two dozen families who live in a single residence occupancy hotel (SRO) building in the city’s Chinatown.
The reason? The tenants have been hanging their laundry out the window to dry — not an uncommon sight in the neighborhood, and one that actually looks kind of nice, if you enjoy the sight of underpants in the wind (guilty as charged here). Paragon Real Estate Group maintains that this practice violates the building’s rules.
The tenants responded — as one does in San Francisco — with a protest. For graphical flair, they held up hangers with T-shirts on them that read, “Hanging laundry is not a crime.”
Randy Shaw, executive director of the Tenderloin Housing Clinic, told the San Francisco Chronicle that the property owners don’t have a case: If the building’s previous owner didn’t object when they hung out laundry, then the building’s current owners have no right to either. Paragon maintains that since it began managing the SRO for Emery Vallejo LLC, which bought the building in 2013, it has been doing everything it can to make a not-nice building into a nice one. It fixed up the bathrooms. It eliminated numerous health and building code violations. Now all it wants is to get these tenants out of there — along with their habit of festooning the fire escapes with laundry and the hallway with Chinese New Year’s decorations.
It has escaped absolutely no one’s attention that the SRO is exactly two blocks from the Columbus & Union Google Bus stop.
Of course, gated suburban communities and homeowner associations have their rules against the eyesore of solar clothes-drying. But it seems strange that San Francisco, a city with such progressive political views, clean energy aspirations, and unnaturally pleasant weather, would allow any landlord or neighborhood to forbid hanging laundry out to dry.
San Francisco has some of the strongest tenant protection laws around. That’s partly because, from the 1960s through the 1980s, San Francisco demolished thousands of units of housing — particularly SRO hotels — to make way for redevelopment projects like museums, shopping malls, and convention centers. It was a contentious time — in 1977, Richard Hongisto, the city’s sheriff, refused to evict the mostly elderly, Filipino tenants of the International Hotel, and spent five days in a city jail cell before finally relenting. In the early 20th century, San Francisco was once known as the “Hotel City” — a place that attracted the kind of people who were willing to share a bathroom and a kitchen with complete strangers in exchange for living in the big city. SROs were popular with a lot of people: immigrants, single people, retirees, bohemian types (as a young single mother trying to make it as a modern dancer, Maya Angelou spent several years living in a San Francisco SRO). But they also acquired a reputation as being a housing option of last resort — occupied by the kind of people who literally could not afford to live anywhere else.
Today’s San Francisco is beginning to look like its past all over again. SRO-style living situations aren’t seen as gross or “out there” any more; in fact, in some cases they’re being aggressively marketed to young tech professionals, with sharing a bathroom reframed as “communal living.”
Meanwhile, the issue of laundry rights is shaping up to be the next vanguard of community activism — something like what backyard chickens or urban farming were for the last decade. While California is one of 19 “Right to Dry” states, that right doesn’t extend to people living in apartments, condominiums, trailer parks, or anywhere with a homeowners’ association agreement, according to Laura Shafer, who has been working to fully legalize line-drying in California for several years.
The gold standard, Shafer told me, is set by states like Vermont and New Hampshire, which have not only protected line-drying, but also any other solar-energy device — solar panels or solar water heaters, for example — that might alarm landlords and/or neighbors. AB 1448, introduced into the California State Assembly this February by Patty López (D-San Fernando) will bring California’s laundry laws up to that level — if it passes.
Shafer has high hopes for the regulation. “It’s getting hotter and drier in California. We need this,” she said. “The clothesline is such a lovely little appliance. If only everyone would use it.”
Filed under: Article, Cities, Living
Leading up to Wednesday’s oral arguments at the U.S. Supreme Court over the Environmental Protection Agency’s new rule limiting mercury emissions from power plants, a big question was how Chief Justice John Roberts would rule.
It’s well known that the Roberts court has been the most pro-business court since the 1940s, and two of the parties challenging EPA’s Mercury and Air Toxics Rule are among the nation’s largest industries — mining and electric utilities. But Roberts has surprised court watchers lately by supporting environmental protections.
The Constitutional Accountability Center, a D.C.-based think tank, recently analyzed Roberts’ record 10 years of serving as Chief Justice, with a close look at his environmental law record. The CAC concluded that Roberts:
[H]as consistently voted against stronger environmental protections in the most controversial cases involving environmental interests. Last Term, though, he joined two big decisions that were environmental wins. With another significant environmental case on the Court’s docket this Term—and more sure to come in the near future—Roberts will no doubt have additional opportunities to weigh in on the meaning and proper application of the Nation’s environmental laws. While it seems very unlikely that Chief Justice Roberts’s record in environmental law cases will end up being good, his vote still shouldn’t be counted out.
Sounds like on this, one, though, you can count his vote out. According to SCOTUSblog reporter Lyle Denniston, the Chief Justice “went from somewhat skeptical to openly critical” of the EPA during the oral arguments. Specifically, Denniston wrote, Roberts “bore down on the agency’s failure” to properly consider how much it would cost these industries to carry out the requirements under the new mercury rule – something that is required under the Clean Air Act.
The EPA finalized the rule in 2012, placing a national limit on mercury emissions from power plants. Why is that significant? Here’s the Sierra Club’s Beyond Coal Campaign director, Mary Anne Hitt, in an op-ed published in Grist:
As the mom of a young daughter, I know that mercury pollution is of special concern to families, because babies exposed to high levels of mercury in the womb are at higher risk of lifelong developmental problems including lowered IQ, learning disabilities, and delays in walking and talking. Mercury exposure is so widespread that, according to EPA studies, at least 1.4 million American women of childbearing age have enough mercury in their bodies to put a fetus at developmental risk.
The National Congress of American Indians also testified to harms of mercury pollution on tribal lands in an amicus brief it filed in support of EPA:
The emissions harm Indian health, putting tribal members at unusually high risk for neurodevelopmental disorders, cardiovascular disease, autoimmune deficiencies, and other adverse health effects from methylmercury exposure. In addition, mercury emissions harm Indian culture, threatening longstanding traditions of fishing and fish consumption that are central to many tribes’ cultural identity. Finally, mercury emissions harm Indian subsistence, contaminating food sources that many tribal members depend on for survival.
Nonetheless, the mining and electric utilities industries sued the EPA, along with 21 states, to stop the new regulations from going into effect, citing the financial concerns. A D.C. Circuit Appeals court upheld the EPA’s rule in April last year, but the industries appealed the ruling.
In the Supreme Court, Roberts sounded more concerned about the financial health of the companies. His critical examination of EPA’s discretion in determining when finances should be considered made it more doubtful that he would side with the agency.
That said, the Constitutional Accountability Center came out of the hearing somewhat optimistic. One of its lawyers, Tom Donnelly, (who also writes for Grist) was at the hearing and made the statement afterward:
The Solicitor General and industry respondents did an effective job in explaining how the EPA’s mercury pollution rule is consistent with the Clean Air Act’s text and structure, and also how the EPA reasonably accounted for costs in its final rule, excluding them when deciding whether to regulate toxic pollutants, but taking them into account when setting the emissions standards for these pollutants.
Helping the case is the fact that the Supreme Court justices understand that most of the industry is already working in compliance with the new mercury rule. According to an amicus brief filed by a group of air pollution control experts, “[N]early 70 percent of total coal-fired capacity was either in compliance with the MATS or already had plans in place to achieve compliance at the end of 2012.”
Nonetheless, the decision could go either way. If Roberts can, in fact, be counted out, the case may be decided by Justice Anthony Kennedy, who appears to be the lone swing vote on this case. Denniston reports that Kennedy started out in the hearings in deference to EPA. However, he seemed perturbed upon learning that EPA had decided to factor in the business costs of the mercury regulation only after the agency determined a need to regulate mercury.
“At that point, the game is over,” said Kennedy.
That’s weird, because Congress authorized the EPA to regulate mercury under the Clean Air Act amendments way back in 1990. The agency didn’t get around to it until 22 years later. Meanwhile, millions of women and children lived with mercury emissions, along with other forms of pollution. At what point was it game over for them?
The high court is expected to rule on the case later this year.
Filed under: Business & Technology, Climate & Energy
Accounting Today named HORNE LLP number 47 on the 2015 Top 100 Firms list.
(PRWeb March 27, 2015)
Read the full story at http://www.prweb.com/releases/2015/03/prweb12615943.htm
Japan is at it again. Back in December, the country got caught trying to pass off $1 billion worth of investments in coal-fired power plants in Indonesia as “climate finance” — that is, funding to fight climate change. Coal plants, of course, are the world’s single biggest source of carbon dioxide emissions.
Japanese officials now say they are also counting $630 million in loans for coal plants in Kudgi, India, and Matarbari, Bangladesh, as climate finance. The Kudgi project has been marred by violent clashes between police and local farmers who fear the plant will pollute the environment.
Tokyo argues that the projects are climate-friendly because the plants use technology that burns coal more efficiently, reducing their carbon emissions compared to older coal plants. Also, Japanese officials stress that developing countries need coal power to grow their economies and expand access to electricity.
Putting aside Japan’s assumption that developing countries need coal-fired power plants (a view still under much debate by energy-focused development economists), the real issue here is that there isn’t an official, internationally recognized definition of “climate finance.” In broad strokes, it refers to money a country is spending to address the problem of climate change, through measures to either mitigate it (i.e., emit less carbon dioxide from power plants, vehicles, etc.) or adapt to it (building sea walls or developing drought-tolerant seeds, for example). But there remains little transparency or oversight for what exactly a country can count toward that end.
The reason that matters is because climate finance figures are a vital chip in international climate negotiations. At a U.N. climate meeting in Peru late last year, Japan announced that it had put $16 billion into climate finance since 2013. Likewise, President Barack Obama last year pledged $3 billion toward the U.N.’s Green Climate Fund, plus several billion more for climate-related initiatives in his proposed budget. Other countries have made similar promises.
Each of these commitments is seen as a quantitative reflection of how seriously a country takes climate change and how far they’re willing to go to address it, and there’s always pressure to up the ante. And these promises from rich countries are especially important because, in many cases, the countries most affected by climate change impacts are developing ones that are the least equipped to do anything about it — and least responsible for the greenhouse gas emissions that caused global warming in the first place. But the whole endeavor starts to look pretty hollow and meaningless if it turns out that “climate finance” actually refers to something as environmentally dubious as a coal plant.
These numbers will take on increasing significance in the run-up to the major climate summit in Paris in December, which is meant to produce a wide-reaching, meaningful international climate accord. So now more than ever, maximum transparency is vital.
Filed under: Article, Business & Technology, Climate & Energy
It’s that time of year again: On Saturday, March 28, at 8:30 p.m. local time, each and every one of us are called upon to do our part, to sacrifice for the planet, to raise awareness about climate change by turning off our lights for ONE ENTIRE HOUR. It’s time … for EARTH HOUR.
Earth Hour was conceived by a marketing firm working with the World Wildlife Fund, and since the first event in Australia in 2007, it’s grown to an international phenomenon. Last year, 162 countries and more than 7,000 towns and cities participated in this remarkable symbol of sacrifice, which is pretty impressive but nothing compared to the 1.2 BILLION tweets about it. Now THAT is a movement.
As U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon stated in a video address, “Earth Hour shows what is possible when we unite in support of a cause: No individual action is too small, no collective vision is too big. This is the time to use your power.”
We here at Grist fully endorse Earth Hour, and will certainly turn off our lights Saturday night, probably while watching TV. Other things you can do:
- Rather than using a heating blanket on cold nights, cover your mattress in tuna and let all the neighborhood cats join you. For one hour.
- Instead of eating directly out of the refrigerator, close the door first and eat over the sink. For one hour.
- If it’s yellow, let it mellow! For one hour.
- Compost! For one hour, and then throw your garbage in the disposal cause that shit will stink up your kitchen.
- Put down those car keys and take a walk! For one hour, and then take a cab home cause it’ll be getting dark by then.
- Go vegan! For one hour, and then celebrate your success with a hamburger.
Even if our alternate suggestions don’t work for you, don’t forget to grab those light switches and make a difference. It’s literally the least you could do.
Filed under: Article, Climate & Energy, Living
Grist’s David Roberts has written quite a bit about America’s intensifying political polarization and how it remains a firewall for Congress’s chances of passing climate legislation. Roberts illuminated the myth behind one of Obama’s most popular proclamations, writing, “There’s red America, a sparsely populated but vast landscape of rural and suburban areas, and there’s blue America, the ‘urban archipelago‘ upon which the left’s constituencies — single women, minorities, cosmopolitans — cluster.”
Obama has since come around to this reality. More importantly, though, the two dominant political parties understand this reality, especially now. In fact, they both indulge a process that basically crystallizes this polarization, and even promotes it. It’s called redistricting. Both parties have been guilty of it, though lately it’s been one certain party more than the other.
This is the process where every 10 years, electoral district lines are redrawn to account for population changes, usually based on new Census figures. Whatever party controls the majority of districts is in charge of the redistricting process (though some places create “independent” commissions) and, unsurprisingly, its members usually draw new lines with the intention of either preserving their majority or increasing it — and this is legal.
What is not legal is drawing lines so that you rope as many voters of color into as few districts as possible. That’s called racial gerrymandering, and it’s a violation of the Voting Rights Act, not to mention the U.S. Constitution. This is at the heart of two critical court decisions made this week. One of the cases, Alabama Legislative Black Caucus v. Alabama, was decided March 25 by the U.S. Supreme Court. The other, Anne Pope et al. v. County of Albany and Albany County Board of Elections, was decided March 24 in a U.S. District Court. Both rulings revealed how government officials have treated their black and Latino constituents as if their lives don’t matter.
This matters to you if you’re a person of color because how the lines are drawn can determine whether you’ll have adequate representation in the legislative branches. If you are white, it matters to you because those same lines could also separate you from people of color with whom you have common political needs and interests.
Two quick examples: Texas, where the Latino population grew, but mostly white, Republican state legislators conspired to ensure that few, if any, new districts would be created to account for that growth. The other example is North Carolina, where certain areas had developed multi-racial voting blocs around common, progressive causes. The white, Republican controlling party drew lines that split black voters out of those multi-racial blocs and dumped them into districts already overfull with minorities.
This explains why, in 2012, while most votes went to Democratic candidates, the party’s share of legislative seats decreased, both in several state legislatures and Congress: They didn’t control the redistricting processes of 2010, and they suffered as a result. In North Carolina, before the 2012 elections, the 13 House congressional districts were split 7 to 6 in favor of Democrats. After the elections, that turned into a lopsided 9 to 4 split, advantage Republicans, despite more residents voting for Democrats statewide than for Republicans, because of how the Republicans drew the maps.
In the Alabama and Albany cases, we find redistricting commissions and consultants who decided to pack black and Latino voters into a few districts, leaving white districts with outsized majorities in their respective legislatures. In both places, the minority populations had grown, while the white populations declined. Still, those in charge of redistricting Albany’s county districts and Alabama’s state districts opted to pack that minority growth into districts that were already filled with minorities.
Both cases deserve close examination, but I’m going to focus on Albany, where civil rights activists had proposed a novel environmental justice approach to redistricting. That plan, submitted by the Arbor Hill Environmental Justice Corp (AHEJ) in 2011, drew lines based on common environmental interests, and also added a new district based on minority growth. It was rejected, though, in favor of a plan that simply packed the new minorities — whose population grew by 36.2 percent between 2000 and 2010 — into districts already dominated by minorities. Meanwhile, a new predominantly white district was created by pulling in voters from a suburb.
AHEJ and the regional NAACP chapter sued, arguing that the county was engaging in racial gerrymandering, which is unconstitutional. It was the third such lawsuit against the county for Voting Rights Act violations in three decades, all about redistricting, and it was the third time that the county lost.
Here’s U.S. District Judge Lawrence A. Kahn in his ruling:
After an exhaustive inquiry into the facts and circumstances of this case, the Court finds that … the totality of the circumstances—in particular the persistent presence of racial bloc voting, the continued low levels of minority-preferred candidate success, the lingering effects of past discrimination that continue to inhibit minority participation in the electoral process, and the questionable manner in which the County conducted its redistricting process—demonstrate that [the county’s redistricting] dilutes the voting strength of black voters in the County.
The AHEJ and NAACP attempted to get the county ahead on this with the maps they submitted in 2011. “We tried to balance this by defining communities above and beyond blackness or ethnicity, but also around environmental concerns, quality of life aspects, land-use aspects, and shared environmental hazards,” said Aaron Mair, executive director of the AHEJ and an NAACP member.
One of those hazards is New York’s aggressive ramp-up of rail-transported Bakken crude oil, which Mair says will run right through communities of color in Albany’s southeast corner. Mair said decisions about the Bakken oil ramp-up were being made while the redistricting process was playing out, and that, had voters of color had an extra county seat, they would’ve had more voice in the matter. The same true for a waste-to-energy incinerator project that’s been proposed in the area.
Mair testified in the Albany trial (he was involved in the other two that the county lost, also) why environmental justice matters when drawing district lines:
On behalf of neighborhoods and residents in North Albany, Arbor Hill, West Hill, and the South End of Albany, AHEJ has litigated local Albany County government subdivisions over zoning, eminent domain proceedings and enforcement [of] federal regulations regarding protecting poor residents from the hazards of lead poisoning.
Lead poisoning prevention practices, standards, laws and requirements are the responsibility of the County Health Department, and the safe housing code enforcement (for the protection of human health) within the City is the responsibility of the City Fire Department.
In spite of state law, which requires landlords and the County Health Department to clean toxic apartments only after tests show a child has been poisoned, there appears to be no County Legislator advocating for laws, regulations, and standards that provide for better coordination between the City of Albany, the Fire Department housing code enforcement, the County Social Services, the County Health Department, and the Legislature’s Health Committee.
“[Redistricting] is not only about counting black bodies,” said Mair, in our interview, “it’s about our relationships to clean water, clean air and access to greenspace.”
Albany County officials thought they were complying with the Voting Rights Act because they were able to spread minority population growth proportionally across the existing four majority-minority districts, believing all they had to do was keep minority populations in these districts above 50.1 percent. But the VRA states that the percentage of minority residents per district alone is not a sound metric for determining whether people of color have adequate political representation. Doing so treats people as numbers instead of as human beings who actually have lives in these districts.
Loyola Law voting expert Justin Levitt wrote in January that this misreading of the VRA, whether it is intentionally used to cloak racial gerrymandering or otherwise, is common. Alabama hid behind the same misreading in its case. However, the U.S. Supreme Court found in its ruling a number of legislative districts where minorities were packed needlessly and unlawfully.
Former Alabama Congressman and current Montgomery, Ala., mayoral candidate Artur Davis calls this “the politics of apartheid.” Davis, who spent years as a Democrat before switching to the Republican party in 2012, defines apartheid as “creating limited islands of black districts … where blacks matter not at all and their views can be ignored.”
It’s exactly what we saw in Albany, where officials hung most of their arguments on the percentages of voters of color they could squeeze into a few districts without looking at things like whether the lines broke up neighborhood associations, or considering the socioeconomic status of certain communities. In Alabama, SCOTUS didn’t rule that the state was guilty of gerrymandering. Instead, they kicked it back to a lower court, but with instructions to take another look at the districts, even pointing out a few that showed the marks of racial packing.
Said Davis of this, “At a minimum, this [SCOTUS] ruling may spur new districts that would require winning legislators to make a case to people who are not in their party and who are not part of their base. That will be healthy for Alabama.”
Which brings us back to the point David Roberts has been making about polarization. As long as gerrymandering creates those “safe seats” where candidates don’t have to respond to competing needs and interests, Red America will remain segregated from Blue America, which means no Green America.
Sometimes it is necessary to create “majority-minority districts” to ensure that voters of color have proper legislative representation, and the VRA allows for that — but it doesn’t make it the rule for every case. This is complicated, given that race tracks closely with party. But if lines are drawn solely with the thinking that blacks only vote Democrat so they need to be blockaded away from safe, white, Republican districts, then democracy has been done a disservice.
“It’s more than just our individual rights as black people, but rather recognizing that our rights are tied to the land, the air we breath, and water we use,” said Mair. “When we talk about the ability to vote in a candidate of our choice, it is not just to get a black mayor, but to get the best choice for mayor who cares about clean air, clean water, and our best interests around land use.”
Filed under: Cities, Politics
Elementary school students are encouraged to celebrate Earth Day by submitting their environmentally themed artwork.
(PRWeb March 27, 2015)
Read the full story at http://www.prweb.com/releases/2015/03/prweb12612203.htm
New research report “Compound NPK Fertilizers Global Market Research 2015” created by BAC Reports is now available at MarketPublishers.com
(PRWeb March 27, 2015)
Read the full story at http://www.prweb.com/releases/2015/03/prweb12614310.htm
The Tarrant Regional Water Districtis recognized for its rehabilitation work on the Eagle Mountain Spillway Dam, for which Hayward Baker Inc. performed grouting project to reduce seepage.
(PRWeb March 27, 2015)
Read the full story at http://www.prweb.com/releases/2015/03/prweb12615086.htm
Solveforce provides cable bandwidth services in Texas. The company now assists customers in obtaining their Cable Bandwidth service for their home and/or their business or commercial establishments...
(PRWeb March 27, 2015)
Read the full story at http://www.prweb.com/releases/cable/bandwidth/prweb12615129.htm
Antarctica’s icy edges are melting 70 percent faster in some places than they were a decade ago, according to a new study in the journal Science.
These massive ice shelves serve as a buffer between the continent’s ice-sheet system and the ocean. As they disintegrate, more and more ice will slip into the sea, raising sea levels by potentially huge amounts.
This study is just the latest bit of horrible news from the bottom of the world. Last year, we found out that the West Antarctic ice sheet was in terminal collapse, which could raise sea levels by 10 to 15 feet over a few hundred years. Then, earlier this month, we learned that an enormous glacier on the other side of the continent is in the same state, and could contribute about the same amount to sea-level rise.
This latest research, from the Scripps Institution of Oceanography, reinforces those findings, adding to the evidence that the continent’s future looks quite grim. Using satellite data, researchers found that “ice-shelf volume change accelerated from negligible loss” between 1994 and 2003 to “rapid loss” between 2003 and 2012. Within a century, a number of ice sheets, which are vanishing by dozens of feet per year, could completely disappear.
Though the geology of east and west Antarctica is different — the ice in the east stretches out over water like a shelf, while the ice in the west is stuck to land below the sea — the entire continent is eroding due to warmer ocean waters and drier weather. The changing water temperature and decreased precipitation speak to broader, long-term changes in climate across the continent, though the west Antarctic is more immediately threatened.
Were Antarctica to melt completely, it would raise sea levels by more than 200 feet. That, of course, would take hundreds of thousands of years. And researchers reiterate that they need more and better data before they understand exactly what’s going on with the continent, and how quickly we can expect it to shrink global coastlines.
But the bad news doesn’t seem likely to stop anytime soon: On Monday and Tuesday, it was a balmy 63 degrees Fahrenheit at the bottom of the world, a record high.
Filed under: Climate & Energy, Science
Presidential candidate and noted climate denier Ted Cruz recently told CBS News that he stopped listening to rock ‘n’ roll after 9/11 because he “didn’t like how rock music responded” to the terrorist attacks. This, as opposed to country music, which strongly condemned flying commercial jets into buildings with such hits as Brooks & Dunn’s “Only in America” and Toby Keith’s “Courtesy of the Red, White and Blue” — both of which Osama bin Laden cited in his infamous 2002 blog post “My Bad! Toby Keith Made Me See the Light.” After 9/11, as Cruz explained to CBS News, “Country music, collectively, the way they responded, it resonated with me — and I just have to say, just at a gut level, I had an emotional reaction that said, these are my people.” Which seems a bit surprising considering we all know who his real people are (Canadians).
In light of Cruz’s admission that he sacrificed three-chord rock for his devotion to the American people, a host of other Republican presidential hopefuls have announced what they gave up for 9/11, and we have to say, even if these men don’t believe in climate change, we’re glad to see they believe in … something. A roundup:
“Friends used to be my favorite TV show. Even after it went off the air, I’d spend an hour or two with the boxset most nights of the week. But after 9/11, Friends didn’t even release a statement. That was it for me. I said goodbye to Monica, goodbye to Chandler, goodbye to Ross, to Phoebe, to Rachel, to the dumb one with the great hair. Just like that. Done.” — Chris Christie
“You might not know this about me, but I used to be a union man. Wore the hat, stood on the picket line, paid my dues each and every month. But after 9/11, the Local 4958 didn’t even send out an email blast with ‘NEVER FORGET’ in the subject. That was it for me. Now, I shut down unions for fun.” — Scott Walker
“Before 9/11, I liked nothing better than to relax after work with an ice-cold Arnold Palmer and a nice, big pipe full of Afghan hash. Light some candles, put on some Coltrane, and let the day go. But in a post-9/11 world, Afghan hash just didn’t resonate with me anymore. So I gave it up cold turkey. For America.” — Jeb Bush
“I own a significant portion of New York and so I’ve always thought of myself a survivor. And you know what survivors do? We band together, and that’s why Sept. 11, 2001 was the last time I ordered from Shanghai Palace on East 57th. The least they could have done is attach a ribbon to the menu.” — Donald Trump
“My first solid food was a cup of coffee, but after 9/11, Folgers didn’t even make a special 9/11 tribute can. And so the Tea Party was born.” — Rand Paul
Filed under: Article, Politics
Earlier this week, the World Health Organization declared the active ingredient in Roundup a “probable” carcinogen and — presumably — giggled maniacally to itself at the inevitable media frenzy that ensued.
When the Grist staff caught wind of the news, one of us did his job and wrote this, while the rest of us poured over the long list of other things that do, probably, possibly, or probably don’t cause cancer. Then, we picked out some of the craziest shit: Chinese-style salted fish does (if you eat enough of it); hot mate (you know, the Argentinian national drink) probably could (again, level of exposure is important); and aloe vera might, too (that’s A LOT of aloe vera).
On the verge of declaring the world a hopeless death trap and closing up shop, we decided to instead ask our pal Andrew Maynard, the University of Michigan professor behind the YouTube series Risk Bites, what to make of all this. He whipped up this helpful video and, needless to say, we’re back in business, renewed with hope, and ready to report on less death-is-upon-us subjects like climate change and … oh damn it.
Filed under: Food, Living, Science
Patrick Ky, Executive Director of the European Aviation Safety Agency Executive (EASA) will be the keynote speaker during the SAE 2015 International Conference on Icing of Aircraft, Engines, and...
(PRWeb March 27, 2015)
Read the full story at http://www.prweb.com/releases/2015/03/prweb12614662.htm
High demand from the industrial sector for inexpensive metal inputs has driven growth in recyclable material wholesaling. For this reason, industry research firm IBISWorld has updated a report on the...
(PRWeb March 27, 2015)
Read the full story at http://www.prweb.com/releases/2015/03/prweb12613509.htm
Back on October, I did a couple of posts — one, two — on the Scylla and Charybdis of modern times: energy poverty and climate change. On one hand, nearly a third of the human family lacks access to basic energy services like light, refrigeration, and charging for cell phones (which have become a necessity almost everywhere). On the other hand, lifting all of those people up to the level of energy access enjoyed by wealthy Westerners, even the least wealthy and most thrifty of wealthy Westerners, would produce enough carbon pollution to fry the planet.
Debate around this issue has been somewhat polarized, since the gloomy assumption shared by both sides is that if you avoid one danger, you run headlong into the other. More energy for the poor means more climate pollution. It’s Scylla or Charybdis, a choice of what (or who) to sacrifice.
But a new paper in Nature Climate Change brings a welcome note of calm and hope to the proceedings. It’s somewhat technical, but boiled down, it does two key things.
First, it shows that on-grid and off-grid technologies are not distinct choices but a continuum, a ladder of energy access, everything from consistent grid access to partial grid access to mini- or micro-grids to home solar systems. And second, it shows how at least the first few steps up that ladder can reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
The paper doesn’t propose to solve the ultimate dilemma of providing full energy access to all humanity within planetary boundaries, but it shows that there is a practical road forward, using newly emerging technologies, that can serve to “rapidly increase access to basic electricity services and directly inform the emerging Sustainable Development Goals for quality of life, while simultaneously driving action towards low-carbon, Earth-sustaining, inclusive energy systems.”
The authors begin by demonstrating two things I discussed in my earlier posts: first, that electricity access is directly correlated with quality of life; and second, that there are limitations on the expansion of centralized grids that have left millions with insufficient energy access, and threatens to leave millions that way even decades into the future.
One purpose of the paper is to argue that new policies and technologies make it possible to fill that access gap. Here’s what they envision:“Decentralized energy systems for clean electricity access,” Nature Climate Change
Combined with policies recommended by the International Energy Agency (IEA), new technologies can bring everyone now lacking energy access onto the energy ladder.
What enables this shift is an intersection of several trends, including:
- much cheaper solar panels, batteries, and other distributed-energy tech,
- hyper-efficient end-use appliances,
- new models of financing that allow people to pay as they go (like they do with liquid fuels) rather than muster large chunks of capital up front,
- developments in information technology that reduce the transaction costs of coordination among small-scale energy users and producers.
These trends can come together behind a nonlinear shift in how energy works in the developing world. The paper offers these two graphs to illustrate the point:“Decentralized energy systems for clean electricity access,” Nature Climate Change
Mobile phones have become ubiquitous almost overnight, allowing the global poor access to new financing arrangements and real-time monitoring of power systems. And LED lighting is right behind, radically reducing the energy demand of, and pollution from, lighting, one of the most important rungs on the energy access ladder.
These new distributed technologies allow a broader range of possibilities to fill gaps in energy access:
High-performance, low-cost photovoltaic generation, paired with advanced batteries and controllers, provide scalable systems across much larger power ranges than central generation, from megawatts down to fractions of a watt. The rapid and continuing improvements in end-use efficiency for LED lighting, d.c. televisions, refrigeration, fans and [information technology] enable decentralized power and appliance systems to compete with legacy equipment, on a basis of cost for energy service, for basic household needs. These rapid advancements in basic technology supporting clean energy both on- and off-grid are predicted to continue. [my emphasis]
Systems all along this range are popping up, from tiny “pico” solar appliances to home solar systems to mini-grids. Each type of system faces its own barriers to expansion, which are detailed in the paper. For many rural households and villages, however, the combination of off-grid power and super-efficient end-use appliances can already beat legacy systems (mainly diesel generators and crappy appliances or cook fires) on price.
Non-technological barriers — which have often been an even greater impediment than technological barriers — are beginning to fall as well. Coupled with the advances in technology are advances in “business models, institutional and regulatory support, and information technology systems.” Policies are driving expansion and new models of financing are enabling customers to pay in ways they are more comfortable with.
To estimate the benefits of an energy access push in poor areas, the authors took Kenya as an illustrative case study. They modeled what would happen if existing household spending on kerosene — the default choice for lighting in Kenya today — were shifted to either off- or on-grid lighting service.
When it comes to pollution, it turns out that anything’s better than kerosene, which not only produces local pollutants but also “black carbon” that drives climate change. When black carbon is taken into effect, it turns out that shifting from kerosene to any kind of electricity reduces climate pollution. “Shifting away from fuel-based lighting to either on- or off-grid power is thus a significant mitigation opportunity,” they conclude.
When it comes to equality of access — the proportion of income the poor spend on energy services vs. the more well-off — the status quo, kerosene, is again the worst. Off-grid energy is an improvement and on-grid energy is the best (which makes sense, since all grid users pay the same unit cost for energy). “This analysis clarifies,” the authors say, “how off-grid technology is an important intermediate step to improve service for those who cannot access the grid because of pervasive barriers in access.”
Overcoming those barriers to grid access is typically more expensive than obtaining off-grid power: “Compared with the median investment required for cash sales of off-grid power, the full cost of grid connections in Kenya requires twice, to many times more, the liquid capital.”
So off-grid is a start. And many of its benefits will persist even in the event of grid connection, since it will encourage use of efficient appliances and can provide back-up (and thus resilience) in the face of unreliable grid power, which is common in the developing world.
To wrap this all up, the paper’s argument is that we are at a unique moment, on the verge of non-linear change, enabled by a convergence of technological, financial, and social changes. It is now possible to substantially improve the energy access of the global poor even as we reduce climate pollution, with a continuum of off- to on-grid technologies.
Can we get all the way the way to full energy access without tipping the climate into chaos? Can we navigate all the way through without running aground on Scylla or Charybdis? It’s impossible to know yet. But we know we can get started.
Filed under: Article, Business & Technology, Climate & Energy