climate change

Fri, 2014-04-04 12:07Don Lieber
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Spills, Explosions, Earthquakes and War: Welcome to American Energy “Independence”

A well-deserved show of gratitude to the efficient and reliable fossil fuel sources of American energy independence — oil, coal and gas — is in order, following a truly remarkable string of success stories in recent days nationwide.      

On March 25, the BP refinery in Whiting, IN, leaked some 1,600 gallons of crude oil about eight miles upstream from a main drinking water inlet to Chicago. (As of this writing, investigators have not yet determined if the oil is conventional crude or heavy tar sands.)

Three days prior, on March 22, nearly 170,000 gallons of bunker fuel oil spilled into Galveston Bay, TX, from a barge, soiling one of the nation’s busiest export terminals with one of the heaviest, stickiest forms of oil on Earth. As a result, 20 containment vessels were dispatched. 

And five days before that, on March 17, a Sunoco-owned oil pipeline leaked 20,000 gallons into the Oak Glen Nature Preserve in Ohio, some 20 miles from Cincinnati. To be fair, the leak was only ‘discovered’ on March 17. Nobody knows when the leak actually began, and the true amount of oil leaked will be impossible to conclude.   

These impressive gains by the oil industry, however, pale in comparison to the string of breakthroughs achieved in the coal industry in recent days in North Carolina.

Tue, 2014-04-01 11:57Carol Linnitt
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All the Positive and Helpful Things in the IPCC Report No One Will Talk About

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If you’ve come across any of the recent headlines on the release of the latest Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report, you’re probably feeling pretty low. The doom and gloom levels were off the charts. And understandably so. Major nations across the globe – especially Canada – are dragging their heels when it comes to climate change action. Canada, sadly, doesn’t have any climate legislation.

But maybe that’s because Canada was waiting for a group of the world’s most knowledgeable scientists to come up with a report for policy makers — you know, something to outline useful guidelines to keep in mind when looking to get your country out of the climate doghouse.

Well, Canada, you’re in luck. Here are some of the IPCC report’s most useful guidelines for responding to the multiple and growing threats of climate change:

Tue, 2014-04-01 00:46Graham Readfearn
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University Criticizes Conservative Media For Misrepresentations That Sparked Hate Mail From Climate Science Deniers

A university has criticized conservative media for a serious misrepresentation of one of its academics that sparked a torrent of abuse from climate science deniers.

As revealed by DeSmogBlog, Rochester Institute of Technology assistant professor Lawrence Torcello received hundreds of e-mails after conservative media incorrectly claimed he had called for climate skeptics to be jailed.

Torcello wrote an article for The Conversation website arguing there was “good reason to consider” that “the funding of climate denial” was morally and criminally negligent.

But conservative media, including FoxNation, The Drudge Report, Breitbart and The Daily Caller, incorrectly claimed that Torcello had either called for contrarian scientists to be jailed or for Americans who did not accept the evidence for human-caused climate change to be imprisoned. Climate skeptic blogger Anthony Watts also encouraged readers to complain to the university.

In a followup statement, the university said:

The search for truth is the animating force of a university, and it behooves those who support open and respectful discussion of controversial issues to get the facts right. Recently the views expressed by a member of our community, Professor Lawrence Torcello, have been misrepresented by some in the media. The misrepresentation follows a pattern similar to other incidents of misrepresentation involving academics that work on topics related to climate change.

Mon, 2014-03-31 20:31Carol Linnitt
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New IPCC Report: Climate Hazards a “Threat Multiplier” and the World is Not Ready

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Human interference with the climate system is occurring, and climate change poses risks for human and natural systems.” IPCC WGII AR5

Every five years or so thousands of scientists from around the world release a major report on the state of climate science. These reports from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) are the most definitive source of information for understanding not only the planet’s geologic and climatic history, but how humans are now influencing earth’s systems, most notably by altering the composition of the atmosphere.

The second part of the most recent report, released today in Yokohama, Japan, focuses on the impacts of climate change and how well governments are adapting to those impacts. This newly-released portion of the report, from the IPCC’s Working Group II, does not bode well for the future of people on this planet. The report predicts massively negative effects on crops, extinction of species, devastating heat waves, acid oceans and geopolitical conflict.

And that’s being called a “conservative” outlook.

Tue, 2014-03-25 19:07Graham Readfearn
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Exclusive: Climate Change Philosopher A Target Of Abusive Hate Campaign

DIE you maggot,” reads one of the hundreds of emails from climate science deniers that have dropped into philosopher Lawrence Torcello’s inbox in recent days.

“Fortunately, your kind will be marched to the wall with all the other leftist detritus,” says another.

Others accuse Torcello, an assistant professor at Rochester Institute of Technology’s Department of Philosophy in the west of New York State, of being a fascist, Stalinist and a Nazi.

The catalyst for the bilious outpouring was an article Torcello had written for The Conversation website arguing there was “good reason to consider” that “the funding of climate denial” was morally and criminally negligent.

I knew there would be debate in the comment section, which I was welcoming,” Torcello told me, adding he also knew the “usual climate denialist blogs” wouldn’t like it too much.

But I didn’t expect the wide level of exposure that the misrepresentations would get in the press and I didn’t expect the intense storm of hate mail and Twitter harassment the article experienced.”

At one point, he says he picked up his phone to be told that soon he would be “paid a visit”. One email told Torcello — in customary all-caps angriness — that he was a “FAGGOT” and that global warming was “A LIE STRAIGHT FROM THE JEWS”.

“When I include phone calls and twitter harassment in addition to the emails I’ve received, then somewhere above 700 items of correspondence seems like a good estimate,” says Torcello.

“I did stop keeping count after the first few days of constant bombardment, but over a week later mail is still coming.”

Sat, 2014-03-15 06:00Guest
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Is Organised Climate Science Denial Criminally Negligent?

By Lawrence Torcello, Rochester Institute of Technology. This article was originally published on The Conversation and is republished with permission.

The importance of clearly communicating science to the public should not be underestimated.

Accurately understanding our natural environment and sharing that information can be a matter of life or death.

When it comes to global warming, much of the public remains in denial about a set of facts that the majority of scientists clearly agree on. With such high stakes, an organised campaign funding misinformation ought to be considered criminally negligent.

The earthquake that rocked L'Aquila Italy in 2009 provides an interesting case study of botched communication. This natural disaster left more than 300 people dead and nearly 66,000 people homeless. In a strange turn of events six Italian scientists and a local defence minister were subsequently sentenced to six years in prison.

The ruling is popularly thought to have convicted scientists for failing to predict an earthquake. On the contrary, as risk assessment expert David Ropeik pointed out, the trial was actually about the failure of scientists to clearly communicate risks to the public. The convicted parties were accused of providing “inexact, incomplete and contradictory information”. As one citizen stated:

We all know that the earthquake could not be predicted, and that evacuation was not an option. All we wanted was clearer information on risks in order to make our choices.

Sat, 2014-03-08 14:00Ben Jervey
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GAO: Climate Change Poses Serious Risk to American Energy Systems

America’s energy infrastructure is dangerously vulnerable to the impacts of climate change, according to a new report released by the nonpartisan Government Accountability Office.

The report, requested by a group of Democratic senators lead by Energy and Natural Resources Chair Ron Wyden of Oregon, breaks down in detail how all aspects of our energy infrastructure — from extraction through transportation through distribution — are even now being compromised by rising seas and water shortages and more extreme weather events and other impacts of climate change.

U.S. energy infrastructure is increasingly vulnerable to a range of climate change impacts–particularly infrastructure in areas prone to severe weather and water shortages. Climate changes are projected to affect infrastructure throughout all major stages of the energy supply chain, thereby increasing the risk of disruptions,” the report explains.

The GAO describes as matter-of-fact the worsening domestic impacts of climate change — which so many elected officials in the Senate continue to stubbornly deny — and uses scientifically rigorous analysis to figure out just how much trouble it spells for our electricity and gasoline supplies.

While the report, Energy Infrastructure Risks and Adaptation Efforts, does not explicitly note that the very energy system that is imperiled by climate change is also largely to blame for climate change, the tragic irony of that fact is clear throughout.

Wed, 2014-03-05 15:21Steve Horn
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Pentagon Calls Climate Change Impacts "Threat Multipliers," Could Enable Terrorism

The U.S. Department of Defense released the 2014 version of its Quadrennial Defense Review (QDR) yesterday, declaring the threat of climate change impacts a very serious national security vulnerability that, among other things, could enable further terrorist activity. 

Released every four years, the QDR is a broad outline of U.S. military strategy discussing how to maintain global U.S. military hegemony. Like the 2010 document, the 64-page 2014 QDR again highlights the threats posed to national security by ever-worsening global climate disruption.

“The impacts of climate change may increase the frequency, scale, and complexity of future missions, including defense support to civil authorities, while at the same time undermining the capacity of our domestic installations to support training activities,” the report details.

“Climate change poses another significant challenge for the United States and the world at large. As greenhouse gas emissions increase, sea levels are rising, average global temperatures are increasing, and severe weather patterns are accelerating.”

For sake of context, some members of the U.S. Congress still deny the existence of climate change, despite overwhelming evidence to the contrary. But the Pentagon's assessment is that global warming is not only real, but also a civilizational threat, as stated in sobering language in the past three QDRs.

As outlined in Christian Parenti's 2011 book, “Tropic of Chaos: Climate Change and the New Geography of Violence,” the military establishment understands climate change is an unparalleled global threat, saying so clearly in reports like the QDR. The problem: its activities around the world are in large part responsible for the threat to begin with.

Tue, 2014-03-04 05:00Sharon Kelly
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The View from Europe: America’s Shale Boom Looks More Like a Blip

The fracking boom has progressed at breakneck speed across the U.S., with roughly one in 20 Americans now living within a mile of a well drilled since 2000.

So, how much has the economy benefitted from this drilling surge?

Not much, according to a report presented to the European Union Parliament last month, which found “no evidence that shale gas is driving an overall manufacturing renaissance in the US.”

The shale boom’s economic contributions are very narrow, inflating local economies in places where drilling is intense but generating little impact on the country’s overall economic growth, the Institute for Sustainable Development and International Relations, a French think tank, concluded.

Although natural gas prices have fallen from their highs in 2008, benefitting consumers, those low levels are unlikely to be sustained and the U.S. is still expected to remain heavily reliant on importing crude oil, the researchers found.

Even using very optimistic assumptions, the report said, the industry’s cumulative long term effect on America’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP) will be less than one percent. “Despite very low and ultimately unsustainable short-term prices of natural gas, the unconventional oil and gas revolution has had a minimal impact on the US macro-economy,”

That’s not the amount that shale gas will add to the economy each year, the researchers said. Instead, the industry will make up no more than 0.84 percent of total GDP between 2012 and 2035 – the years when the shale boom is projected to be at its height. To put that in context, the personal care products industry – hair styling, cosmetics and the like – contributed 1.4 percent of GDP in 2010 – nearly double the impact that the EU report found the shale gas rush could have.

Fri, 2014-02-21 17:50Guest
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Michael Mann: Canadians Should Fight Harper's War on Science and the U.S. Should Help

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This is a guest post by distinguished climatologist Michael Mann. The article originally appeared on The Mark News.

The scientific community has long warned that environmental issues, especially climate change, need to be a global concern. Climatologist Michael Mann argues that Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s administration is purposely obstructing the research that needs to take place to solve these problems.

In early 2013, the government of Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper introduced new science communications procedures that threatened the publication rights of an American scientist who had been working in the Arctic with Canadian researchers since 2003.

This was the first time the Canadian government’s draconian confidentiality rules had infringed on the scientific freedom of an international academic – or, at least, it was the first time such an incident had been made known. Professor Andreas Muenchow from the University of Delaware publicly refused to sign a government agreement that threatened to “sign away [his] freedom to speak, publish, educate, learn and share.”

To many of us American scientists, this episode sadly came as little surprise. We have known for some time that the Canadian government has been silencing the voices of scientists speaking out on the threat of fossil-fuel extraction and burning and the damaging impacts they are having on our climate. I have close friends in the Canadian scientific community who say they have personally been subjected to these heavy-handed policies. Why? Because the implications of their research are inconvenient to the powerful fossil-fuel interests that seem to now run the Canadian government.

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