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Tue, 2013-08-20 16:45Guest
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Is Geoengineering a Silver Bullet for Climate Change?

This is a guest post by David Suzuki.

Altering environments to suit our needs is not new. From clearing land to building dams, we've done it throughout history. When our technologies and populations were limited, our actions affected small areas – though with some cascading effects on interconnected ecosystems.

We've now entered an era in which humans are a geological force. According to the website Welcome to the Anthropocene, “There are now so many of us, using so many resources, that we’re disrupting the grand cycles of biology, chemistry and geology by which elements like carbon and nitrogen circulate between land, sea and atmosphere. We’re changing the way water moves around the globe as never before. Almost all the planet's ecosystems bear the marks of our presence.”

One of our greatest impacts is global warming, fuelled by massive increases in atmospheric carbon dioxide from burning oil, coal and gas. Thanks in part to self-preserving industrialists, complicit governments and deluded deniers, we've failed to take meaningful action to address the problem, even though we've known about it for decades. Many now argue the best way to protect humanity from the worst effects is to further alter Earth’s natural systems through geoengineering.

Fri, 2013-08-16 07:00Guest
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Study Finds Utility Decoupling is Gaining Traction

This is a guest post by Clint Robertson.

A new study found that 25 states had adopted revenue decoupling for at least one natural gas or electric utility by December 2012. In total, 24 electric and 49 natural gas utilities participate in decoupling according to the report by the American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy, the Regulatory Assistance Project and the Natural Resources Defense Council.  

This is a big increase over 2009 data, which found that just 28 natural gas and 12 electric utilities had adopted revenue decoupling. So why the sudden increase in utility interest for decoupling?

Under most regulatory conditions, utilities make money based on how much energy their customers consume each month.  The more energy a utility sells, the larger its profit margin. While it's an effective way for utilities to make money and the system has worked well for over a century, it’s a hindrance to energy-efficiency initiatives that many states are mandating.

Basically, for utilities, waste and pollution equal profit.  If a utility promotes energy savings, it sells less energy, and in turn loses money.  To further complicate things, the decreased revenue makes it harder for utilities to cover fixed costs, such as the regular maintenance of power lines and facilities necessary for reliable energy service. So in an age where going green prevails and climate change initiatives stretch across the globe, it's not easy to get a utility to support energy-efficiency initiatives.

Wed, 2013-07-24 04:00Guest
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CNBC Host Squawks Climate Denial in Twitter Meltdown

This is a guest post by Emily Southard, Campaign Manager of Forecast the Facts

Joe Kernen, co-host of CNBC’s Squawk Box, lashed out on Twitter this month at concerned CNBC viewers and individuals who called on him to accurately report the facts about the economic risks of climate change. Kernen’s comments are indicative of a larger climate coverage problem at CNBC.

Just recently, the network refused to air President Obama’s climate change speech–a surprising choice for a business news and financial network, given that Obama’s remarks dramatically shifted financial markets.

One potential explanation for this blunder? Many of CNBC’s on-air personalities are avid climate deniers–currently, the most vocal being Joe Kernen.

The CNBC Squawk Box co-anchor is so adamant that climate change is a “myth”, that Kernen has dedicated 150 out of his 530 lifetime tweets (over 28% of his all-time Twitter activity) and many business hours to doubling down on climate denial.

Kernen’s tweets have varied from calling concerned climate activists the “eco-taliban” and “sheep” to repeating well-debunked climate denier myths, citing his MIT cancer research multiple times, and complaining about public criticisms.

Sat, 2013-07-13 12:10Guest
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Lac Megantic Oil Train Explosion: Consequences of Deregulation

This is a guest post by Phil Mattera.

Canada’s Transportation Safety Board is far from reaching a conclusion on what caused an unattended train with 72 tanker cars filled with crude oil to roll downhill and crash into the Quebec town of Lac-Megantic, setting off a huge explosion that killed at least 15 people. But that hasn’t stopped Edward Burkhardt, the chief executive of the railroad, from pointing the finger at everyone in sight — except himself.

Burkhardt first tried to blame local firefighters who had extinguished a small blaze in the train before the larger accident, and now he is accusing his own employee — the person who was operating the train all by himself — for failing to apply all the hand brakes when he parked the train for the night and went to a hotel for some rest after his 12-hour shift.

Whatever were the immediate causes of the accident, Burkhardt and his company — Montreal, Maine & Atlantic (MMA) Railway and its parent Rail World Inc. — bear much of the responsibility.

Burkhardt is a living symbol of the pitfalls of deregulation, deunionization, privatization and the other features of laissez-faire capitalism. He first made his mark in the late 1980s, when his Wisconsin Central Railroad took advantage of federal railroad deregulation, via the 1980 Staggers Rail Act, to purchase 2,700 miles of track from the Soo Line and remake it into a supposedly dynamic and efficient carrier. That efficiency came largely from operating non-union and thus eliminating work rules that had promoted safety.

Sat, 2013-07-06 07:00Guest
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Former Park Service Ranger Concerned About Fracking Threats To National Parks

This is a guest post by Ellis Richard. It originally appeared at The Huffington Post on June 20, 2013.

As a life-long Westerner, and former National Park Service ranger, I've spent a lot of time in and around some of America's most treasured places. I dedicated my career to protecting these parks.

The future of our national parks, and all of the great open spaces of the west is important to me. These powerful American landscapes helped shape our national character, and defined a way of life, and a life style so many of us value. In many ways, these places define America and give meaning and vision to our lives.

With those concerns in mind, this week I took our cause of balanced oil and gas leasing to the Hill and joined the National Parks Conservation Association to brief Congressional offices about our work and the threat fracking and drilling poses to America's national parks.

Wed, 2013-06-19 05:00Guest
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Corporate Counterfeit Science – Both Wrong and Dangerous

Asbestos Mine in Canada on DeSmog Canada

This is a guest post by Andrew Rosenberg, director of the Center for Science and Democracy with the Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS). It originally appeared on the UCS blog The Equation.

Asbestos can kill you. We’ve all been warned about the dangers of breathing it in. That is why we test buildings for it and have rules to protect construction workers from exposure to it. But how do we know asbestos is harmful? Because scientists have done studies of the dangers it poses to our health. And I’m glad they have so we can avoid these threats.

Tampering with science behind the health effects of asbestos

For decades, however, some companies have fought efforts to regulate asbestos, even tampering with the science behind our understanding of its health effects. And, sadly, a recent court ruling indicates that the tampering may have been more widespread than anyone previously knew.

Recently, a New York Appeals Court ruled unanimously that that Georgia Pacific, a subsidiary of Koch Industries, must hand over internal documents pertaining to the publication of 11 studies published in reputable scientific journals between 2008 and 2012. At issue in the case: whether the firm can be held accountable for engaging in a “crime-fraud” by planting misinformation in these journals intending to show that the so-called chrysotile asbestos in its widely used joint compound doesn’t cause cancer.

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