Environment

Global warming denial hits a six-year high

Grist.org - Fri, 01/17/2014 - 21:48

The latest data is out on the prevalence of global warming denial among the U.S. public. And it isn’t pretty.

The new study, from the Yale and George Mason University research teams on climate change communication, shows a 7-percentage-point increase in the proportion of Americans who say they do not believe that global warming is happening. And that’s just since the spring of 2013. The number is now 23 percent; back at the start of last year, it was 16 percent:

Yale and George Mason University teams on Climate Change CommunicationThe increase in climate science disbelief. Click to embiggen.

The percentage of Americans who believe global warming is human-caused has also declined, and now stands at 47 percent, a decrease of 7 percent since 2012.

At the same time, the survey also shows an apparent hardening of attitudes. Back in September 2012, only 43 percent of those who believed that global warming isn’t happening said they were either “very sure” or “extremely sure” about their views. By November of last year, that number had increased to 56 percent.

Overall, more Americans now say they have all the information they need to make up their minds about the climate issue, and fewer say they could easily change their minds:

Yale and George Mason University teams on Climate Change CommunicationIncreasing righteousness about global warming, on both sides of the issue. Click to embiggen.

The obvious question is, what happened over the last year to produce more climate denial?

According to both Anthony Leiserowitz of Yale and Ed Maibach of George Mason, the leaders of the two research teams, the answer may well lie in the so-called global warming “pause” — the misleading idea that global warming has slowed down or stopped over the the past 15 years or so. This claim was used by climate skeptics, to great effect, in their quest to undermine the release of the U.N. Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s Fifth Assessment Report in September 2013 — precisely during the time period that is in question in the latest study.

As we have reported before, the notion of a global warming “pause” is, at best, the result of statistical cherry-picking. It relies on starting with a very hot year (1998) and then examining a relatively short time period (say, 15 years), to suggest that global warming has slowed down or stopped during this particular stretch of time. But put these numbers back into a broader context and the overall warming trend remains clear. Moreover, following the IPCC report, new research emerged suggesting that the semblance of a “pause” may be the result of incomplete temperature data due to the lack of adequate weather stations in the Arctic, where the most dramatic global warming is occurring.

Nonetheless, widely publicized “pause” claims may well have shaped public opinion. “Beginning in September, and lasting several months, coincident with the release of the IPCC report, there was considerable media attention to the concept of the ‘global warming pause,’” observes Maibach. “It is possible that this simple — albeit erroneous — idea helped to convince many people who were previously undecided to conclude that the climate really isn’t changing.”

“Even more likely, however,” Maibach adds, “is that media coverage of the ‘pause’ reinforced the beliefs of people who had previously concluded that global warming is not happening, making them more certain of their beliefs.”

As Maibach’s colleague Anthony Leiserowitz of Yale adds, it isn’t as though those who were already convinced about global warming became less sure of themselves over the last year. Rather, the change of views “really seems to be happening among the ‘don’t knows,’” says Leiserowitz. “Those are the people who aren’t paying attention, and don’t know much about the issue. So they’re the most open-minded, and the most swayable based on recent events.”

Journalists take heed: Your coverage has consequences. All those media outlets who trumpeted the global warming “pause” may now be partly responsible for a documented decrease in Americans’ scientific understanding.

This story was produced as part of the Climate Desk collaboration.


Filed under: Climate & Energy
Categories: Environment

California is now really, truly, officially screwed by drought

Grist.org - Fri, 01/17/2014 - 21:22

We tend to complain about precipitation in the winter: It’s cold, it’s depressing, it can make getting around dangerous and not fun. But as California can tell you right about now, there is definitely such thing as not enough “wintry mix.”

Friday morning, California Gov. Jerry Brown (D) officially declared a drought emergency. He directed state agencies to use less water, and asked residents and businesses to voluntarily cut their usage 20 percent. Mandatory water limitations could follow, and Brown might ask for federal aid. Meanwhile, public landscaping will go dry and emergency firefighters will be added to the payroll.

We’ve been nervously watching the Golden State’s clear skies this winter, but recently things have gone from bad to worse fast. In the past two weeks, the percentage of the state experiencing extreme drought conditions shot from 28 percent up to a vertigo-inducing 63 percent, according to the U.S. Drought Monitor. Snowpack in the Sierra Nevada Mountains is at a perilously low 17 percent of its usual level this time of year. Since as much as 65 percent of Cali’s water comes from this virtual water cooler, and much of that goes toward the state’s multibillion-dollar agricultural industry, the effects of a catastrophic water shortage may be widely felt in the year to come.

Though droughts are not uncommon in the region’s Mediterranean climate, the pattern of the past few years points to a slow-mo climate crisis crashing into the West Coast. 2013 was California’s driest year on record, with about two thirds of the state experiencing severe water shortage and fire danger. (Yesterday, a wildfire just outside of L.A. started gobbling up homes and trees in the Angeles National Forest, despite the fact that January and February are typically the wettest months in California.) From Salon:

Experts say that California must look beyond the current crisis … warning that the state can expect more of the same in future years. “The current historically dry weather is a bellwether of what is to come in California, with increasing periods of drought expected with climate change,” Juliet Christian-Smith, climate scientist in the California office of the Union of Concerned Scientists, said in a statement. “Because increasing demand and drought are straining our water resources, we need to adopt policies that address both the causes and consequences of climate change.”

“Hopefully it’ll rain eventually,” Brown said during his announcement, with meteorologically sanctioned pessimism, as in: Probably not soon. The imminent return of the polar vortex is likely to impose moisture-free conditions on California while dumping extra snow over much of the rest of the country for the next few weeks.

Other states are suffering from dry spells too, including Arkansas, Colorado, Idaho, Kansas, New Mexico, Nevada, Utah, Texas, Oklahoma, and Hawaii. Maybe it’s time to put that spoon under your pillow and wish for a slush storm like the good old days.


Filed under: Article, Climate & Energy
Categories: Environment

This LED billboard is the only way to see the sunrise in smoggy Beijing

Grist.org - Fri, 01/17/2014 - 20:44

New York Times correspondent Edward Wong RTed this picture of a billboard in Beijing:

北京人是這麼看日出的,真尼瑪高科技 http://t.co/lOuTEkGvQM
小苦逼 (@joneshen1992) January 16, 2014

Yes, that’s a giant LED billboard displaying the sunrise — or maybe the sunset? Who can tell, since the smog is so bad it’s impossible to tell what time it is in real life.

We’ve previously reported about Hong Kong’s fake blue-sky backdrop for tourist photos, but Beijing has done them one better — the ersatz sunset glows just like the real thing, and if it’s video, as reported, you can even take fake tourist Vines and nobody will be the wiser! Just make sure to use a tight, tight zoom. Step back too far and it becomes clear that you’re in a dystopian air pollution nightmare.


Filed under: Article, Cities
Categories: Environment

The first lawsuit against Obama’s new coal limits just got filed

Grist.org - Fri, 01/17/2014 - 20:04

In December 2012, a federal appeals court in Washington, D.C., dismissed a suit by the company behind a proposed new coal plant in Texas that sought to block new carbon dioxide pollution limits on power plants proposed by the EPA. The court’s reasoning was that any appeal would have to wait until after the rules were finalized, not simply proposed. So last week, after the EPA published an updated version of the proposal, Clean Air Task Force legal director Ann Weeks said she doubted a new round of lawsuits would be in the offing.

But it took just a week to see the first fusillade against this major pillar of President Obama’s climate strategy: Wednesday, the state of Nebraska, where coal is the largest power source, filed suit against the proposed rule.

“Just goes to show I should never try to predict whether or not suits will be filed,” Weeks said in an email.

The suit revolves around carbon capture and storage (CCS) technology, which scrubs pollutants from power plant emissions. Because of the tight limits on carbon pollution called for in the proposed rule, using CCS would become the only way to build any new coal-fired power plants, a restriction coal advocates have said will effectively kill the industry. The EPA, meanwhile, contends that CCS is viable and affordable.

The Nebraska suit cites a 2005 law that made funding available to study CCS at three new high-tech power plants — currently under construction in Mississippi, Texas, and California — that together have received $2.5 billion in federal grants and tax credits. The suit asks the district court to declare that the proposed rule is “in excess of statutory … authority” and require the EPA to withdraw it; under the law, the suit contends, the EPA is prohibited from using technology developed with this funding as the sole basis for a Clean Air Act regulation like the one proposed last week.

statement from Nebraska Attorney General Jon Bruning, a Republican, makes it clear that protecting the interests of the state’s coal industry is as much a priority as adherence to the 2005 statute. “The impossible standards imposed by the EPA will ensure no new power plants are built in Nebraska,” the statement says.

A major problem with the suit’s reasoning, according to Weeks, is that the EPA has drawn on many years’ worth of independent research and industry experience to decide that CCS is workable, not exclusively the lessons of these three power plants.

“Their argument is that EPA improperly used these subsidized projects,” Weeks said. “The answer is no, they didn’t.”

In the U.S., the low cost of natural gas has drawn interest away from building any new coal plants, CCS or no, but the technology has been proven to work at a pilot scale, according to MIT research engineer Howard Herzog. (Herzog’s group has some good information about the spread of CCS here). The big open question, Herzog said, is not whether CCS can be done, but whether it can be done affordably. Current technology for coal plants costs about $65 per ton of CO2 avoided, Herzog said, which could be too high to justify using it. And rather than spurring innovation to reduce the cost, the EPA’s regulation is likely to put a “wet blanket” on CCS R&D, he said, since it doesn’t create a market that would motivate private-sector investment.

Herzog and Weeks agreed that the question of how viable CCS truly is will have to be eventually settled in court, as more suits like this pile up in advance of the rules’ finalization sometime next year. With the time it will take for suits to shake out, it’s likely to be several years before any new regulation actually takes effect.

This story was produced as part of the Climate Desk collaboration.


Filed under: Climate & Energy, Politics
Categories: Environment

Michael Pollan explains what’s wrong with the paleo diet

Grist.org - Fri, 01/17/2014 - 19:18

This episode of Inquiring Mindsa podcast hosted by bestselling author Chris Mooney and neuroscientist and musician Indre Viskontas, is guest-hosted by Cynthia Graber. It also features a discussion of the new popular physics book Trespassing on Einstein’s Lawn, by Amanda Gefter, and new research suggesting that the purpose of sleep is to clean cellular waste substances out of your brain.

To catch future shows right when they are released, subscribe to Inquiring Minds via iTunes or RSS. We are also available on Swell. You can follow the show on Twitter at @inquiringshow and like us on Facebook. Inquiring Minds was also recently singled out as one of the “Best of 2013″ shows on iTunes — you can learn more here.

The paleo diet is hot. Those who follow it are attempting, they say, to mimic our ancient ancestors — minus the animal-skin fashions and the total lack of technology, of course. The adherents eschew what they believe comes from modern agriculture (wheat, dairy, legumes, for instance) and rely instead on meals full of meat, nuts, and vegetables — foods they claim are closer to what hunter-gatherers ate.

The trouble with that view, however, is that what they’re eating is probably nothing like the diet of hunter-gatherers, says Michael Pollan, author of a number of best-selling books on food and agriculture, including Cooked: A Natural History of Transformation. “I don’t think we really understand … well the proportions in the ancient diet,” argues Pollan on the latest episode of the Inquiring Minds podcast (stream below). “Most people who tell you with great confidence that this is what our ancestors ate — I think they’re kind of blowing smoke.”

The wide-ranging interview with Pollan covered the science and history of cooking, the importance of microbes — tiny organisms such as bacteria — in our diet, and surprising new research on the intelligence of plants. Here are five suggestions he offered about cooking and eating well.

1. Meat: It’s not always for dinner. Cooking meat transforms it: Roasting it or braising it for hours in liquid unlocks complex smells and flavors that are hard to resist. In addition to converting it into something we crave, intense heat also breaks down the meat into nutrients that we can more easily access. Our ancient ancestors likely loved the smell of meat on an open fire as much as we do.

Ken Light

But human populations in different regions of the world ate a variety of diets. Some ate more; some ate less. They likely ate meat only when they could get it, and then they gorged. Richard Wrangham, author of Catching Fire: How Cooking Made Us Human, says diets from around the world ranged greatly in the percentage of calories from meat. It’s not cooked meat that made us human, he says, but rather cooked food.

In any case, says Pollan, today’s meat is nothing like that of the hunter-gatherer.

One problem with the paleo diet is that “they’re assuming that the options available to our caveman ancestors are still there,” he argues. But “unless you’re willing to hunt your food, they’re not.”

As Pollan explains, the animals bred by modern agriculture — which are fed artificial diets of corn and grains, and beefed up with hormones and antibiotics — have nutritional profiles far from wild game.

Pastured animals, raised on diets of grass and grubs, are closer to their wild relatives; even these, however, are nothing like the lean animals our ancestors ate.

So, basically, enjoy meat in moderation, and choose pastured meat if possible.

2. Humans can live on bread alone. Paleo obsessives might shun bread, but bread, as it has been traditionally made, is a healthy way to access a wide array of nutrients from grains.

In Cooked, Pollan describes how bread might have been first created: Thousands of years ago, someone probably in ancient Egypt discovered a bubbling mash of grains and water, the microbes busily fermenting what would become dough. And unbeknownst to those ancient Egyptians, the fluffy, delicious new substance had been transformed by those microbes. Suddenly the grains provided even more bang for the bite.

As UC-Davis food chemist Bruce German told Pollan in an interview, “You could not survive on wheat flour. But you can survive on bread.” Microbes start to digest the grains, breaking them down in ways that free up more of the healthful parts. If bread is compared to another method of cooking flour — basically making it into porridge — “bread is dramatically more nutritious,” says Pollan.

Still, common bread made from white flour and commercial yeast doesn’t have the same nutritional content as the slowly fermented and healthier sourdough bread you might find at a local baker. Overall, though, bread can certainly be part of a nutritious diet. (At least, for those who don’t suffer from celiac disease.)

3. Eat more microbes. Microbes play a key role not just in bread, but in all sorts of fermented foods: beer, cheese, yogurt, kimchi, miso, sauerkraut, pickles. Thousands — even hundreds — of years ago, before electricity made refrigeration widely available, fermentation was one of the best means of preserving foods.

And now we know that microbes, such as those in our gut, play a key role in our health, as well. The microbes we eat in foods like pickles may not take up a permanent home in our innards; rather, they seem to be more akin to transient visitors, says Pollan. Still, “fermented foods provide a lot of compounds that gut microbes like,” and he says he makes sure to eat some fermented vegetables every day.

Shutterstock

4. Raw food is for the birds (too much of it, anyway). There’s paleo, and then there’s the raw diet. Folks who eat raw tout the health benefits of the approach, saying that they’re accessing the full, complete nutrients available because they’re not heating, and thus destroying, their dinner. But that’s simply wrong. We cook to get our hands on more nutrients, not fewer. According to Wrangham, the one thing absolutely all cultures have in common is that they cook their food. He points out that women who move towards 100 percent raw diets often stop ovulating, because even if in theory they’re tossing sufficient food into the blender to fulfill their caloric needs, they simply can’t absorb enough from the uncooked food.

Our hefty cousins, the apes, spend half their waking hours gnawing on raw sustenance, about six hours per day. In contrast, we spend only one hour. “So in a sense, cooking opens up this space for other activities,” says Pollan. “It’s very hard to have culture, it’s very hard to have science, it’s very hard to have all the things we count as important parts of civilization if you’re spending half of all your waking hours chewing.” Cooked food: It gave us civilization.

5. Want to be healthy? Cook. Pollan says the food industry has done a great job of convincing eaters that corporations can cook better than we can. The problem is, it’s not true. And the food that others cook is nearly always less healthful than that which we cook ourselves.

“Part of the problem is that we’ve been isolated as cooks for too long,” says Pollan. “I found that to the extent you can make cooking itself a social experience, it can be a lot more fun.”

But how can we convince folks to give it a try? “I think we have to lead with pleasure,” he says. Aside from the many health benefits, cooking is also “one of the most interesting things humans know how to do and have done for a very long time. And we get that, or we wouldn’t be watching so much cooking on TV. There is something fascinating about it. But it’s even more fascinating when you do it yourself.”

This story was produced as part of the Climate Desk collaboration.


Filed under: Food, Living
Categories: Environment

EasyTurf Set to Unveil Latest Fiber Innovation “Marquee” at NAHB Expo

PR Web - Fri, 01/17/2014 - 19:17

EasyTurf is scheduled to showcase the latest in artificial grass fiber innovation at the National Association of Home Builders (NAHB) Expo on Feb. 4-6 in Las Vegas.

(PRWeb January 17, 2014)

Read the full story at http://www.prweb.com/releases/2014/01/prweb11497245.htm

Categories: Environment

Global Intravenous Access Devices Market is Expected to Reach USD 46.5...

PR Web - Fri, 01/17/2014 - 19:17

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(PRWeb January 17, 2014)

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Categories: Environment

National Wildlife Federation Teams Up with The Nut Job to Celebrate...

PR Web - Fri, 01/17/2014 - 19:17

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(PRWeb January 17, 2014)

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Categories: Environment

VMP Nutrition Foundation Expands Nonprofit Benefiting Children’s...

PR Web - Fri, 01/17/2014 - 19:17

VMP Nutrition Foundation sets out on ambitious mission to provide nutritional supplements to areas around the world to make an impact against malnutrition.

(PRWeb January 17, 2014)

Read the full story at http://www.prweb.com/releases/2014/01/prweb11499842.htm

Categories: Environment

Enterprises TV Introduces Series on Improving Oil & Gas Success

PR Web - Fri, 01/17/2014 - 19:17

While there are many exciting developments in renewable energy, it’s clear that oil and gas are here to stay for quite a while.

(PRWeb January 17, 2014)

Read the full story at http://www.prweb.com/releases/enterprises-tv-series-on/oil-and-gas-success/prweb11490122.htm

Categories: Environment

Renewable Choice Energy Recertifies as a Benefit Corporation

PR Web - Fri, 01/17/2014 - 19:17

Leading climate change solutions provider to continue partnership with global movement

(PRWeb January 17, 2014)

Read the full story at http://www.prweb.com/releases/2014/01/prweb11492547.htm

Categories: Environment

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PR Web - Fri, 01/17/2014 - 19:17

This market research study provides a detailed qualitative and quantitative analysis of the global market also provides a comprehensive review of major market drivers, restraints, opportunities,...

(PRWeb January 17, 2014)

Read the full story at http://www.prweb.com/releases/green-polyol-bio-polyol/market/prweb11495875.htm

Categories: Environment

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PR Web - Fri, 01/17/2014 - 19:17

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(PRWeb January 17, 2014)

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Categories: Environment

Senior BSEE Official to Address Decommissioning Summit in Houston

PR Web - Fri, 01/17/2014 - 19:17

To kick off what is being called a “bedding down year” for regulations in the Gulf of Mexico, a senior BSEE official will address the largest decommissioning and abandonment gathering in the world in...

(PRWeb January 17, 2014)

Read the full story at http://www.prweb.com/releases/2014/01/prweb11496045.htm

Categories: Environment

Keiretsu Forum Mid-Atlantic to Showcase New Companies in Tech, Life...

PR Web - Fri, 01/17/2014 - 19:17

Next Meeting of Angel Investors to Take Place January 21-24 Throughout the Northeast

(PRWeb January 17, 2014)

Read the full story at http://www.prweb.com/releases/2014/01/prweb11497911.htm

Categories: Environment

Blue Bird's Propane Buses Provide Reliable Operation During Recent...

PR Web - Fri, 01/17/2014 - 19:17

Districts and operators throughout North America report their propane autogas school buses started and operated flawlessly despite extreme temperatures.

(PRWeb January 17, 2014)

Read the full story at http://www.prweb.com/releases/2014/01/prweb11499764.htm

Categories: Environment

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PR Web - Fri, 01/17/2014 - 19:17

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(PRWeb January 17, 2014)

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Categories: Environment

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PR Web - Fri, 01/17/2014 - 19:17

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(PRWeb January 17, 2014)

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Categories: Environment

These beautiful shawls are made from endangered antelope fur

Grist.org - Fri, 01/17/2014 - 18:20

The Tibetan antelope lives on a cold, cold plateau and grows a fine fuzzy under-fur — one-fifth the width of human hair — to keep it warm. Not coincidentally, it’s also endangered. It’s lost more than half of its population in the past 20 years, and part of the reason is that humans use that fuzzy fur to make really soft, really warm shawls. The Guardian reports:

Shahtoosh shawls are made by highly skilled Kashmiri artisans from the fine under-fur of the chiru (the Tibetan antelope) and they are prized in Pakistan. Processing or wearing shahtoosh is a punishable offence in India, and in Pakistan — where they are smuggled into from Indian Kashmir — anyone selling them face prison sentences of up to two years and fine of up to Rs1m (£5,805).

But people want them anyway — they’re often given as wedding gifts. But to harvest the wool, it’s necessary to kill the antelope — about four antelopes for every shawl. An antelope can only give birth to one fawn each year, and half of those usually die. It’s pretty simple math: Kill a lot of these fuzzy fellows, and they have a hard time replenishing themselves. Perhaps we can interest anyone shopping for wedding gifts in a nice non-endangered fondue pot instead?


Filed under: Living
Categories: Environment

Safety rules to prevent oil-train explosions delayed

Grist.org - Fri, 01/17/2014 - 17:40

Sounds like we might need to get used to oil-hauling trains exploding. New rules that would require railways to use stronger cars for transporting crude will not be ready until next year, the federal government announced this week.

There are a few reasons why we’re seeing more oil-train explosions these days. The main one is the huge rise in the amount of oil being extracted in the U.S. and then transported by rail to refiners. Also, fracked crude from the Bakken formation in North Dakota is particularly explosive thanks to its higher levels of light hydrocarbons and, possibly, the presence of flammable fracking chemicals. And DOT-111 tanker rail cars, which make up 70 percent of the nation’s tanker fleet, puncture easily. 

Here’s Fuel Fix with an update on forthcoming railcar safety rules:

New regulations that could force older tank cars to be upgraded or phased out are under development, but will not be proposed until Nov. 12 and will be subject to a public comment period until Jan. 12, 2015, according to the Department of Transportation.

However, that initial timeline could shift as the process continues, said Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration spokesman Gordon Delacambre.

If the timeline shifts, expect the rules to be even later.

This is a big disappointment to some lawmakers and others who had hoped that the rules would be drafted in the coming months weeks. From the Twin Cities Pioneer Press:

[North Dakota Sen. John Hoeven (R)] and other federal lawmakers turned up the pressure in the wake of the Dec. 30 crash in Casselton, where 18 DOT-111 cars hauling crude oil ruptured after the train collided with a derailed soybean train, sparking explosions and sending thick plumes of black smoke over the small town.

“It’s disappointing,” Hoeven said Wednesday after the DOT released its schedule. “They need to get going on this.” …

Hoeven said a quicker rollout of regulations is necessary to put the public at ease and let shipping companies know what rules they’ll be working under. …

More than 300,000 DOT-111s are on the rails — 94,000 of which haul hazardous fluids such as crude oil and ethanol, according to the Railway Supply Institute.

For now, if you live near train tracks, keep your fingers crossed and hope for the best.


Filed under: Business & Technology, Climate & Energy, Politics
Categories: Environment

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