Blog Archive

Sunday, April 12, 2015

rjsigmund's most excellent review of climate and environmental news

Toxic Weed Killer Glyphosate Found in Breast Milk, Infant Formula - The widely-used herbicide glyphosate, now classified as probably carcinogenic to humans by the World Health Organization (WHO), has been found in a number of items, including honey, breast milk and infant formula, according to media reports. “When chemical agriculture blankets millions of acres of genetically engineered corn and soybean fields with hundreds of millions of pounds of glyphosate, it’s not a surprise babies are now consuming Monsanto’s signature chemical with breast milk and infant formula,” said Ken Cook, president and co-founder of Environmental Working Group. “The primary reason millions of Americans, including infants, are now exposed to this probable carcinogen is due to the explosion of genetically engineered crops that now dominate farmland across the U.S.” “Through their purchasing power, the American consumer is fueling this surge in GMO crops and the glyphosate exposure that comes with it,” added Cook. “It’s time the federal FDA require foods made with GMOs be labeled as such so the public can decide for themselves if they want to send their dollars to the biotech industry that cares more about profits than public health.”

Drug-Resistant Food Poisoning Lands In The U.S. -- This time last year, a painful new virus was knocking on our doorstep. Travelers were bringing chikungunya to the U.S. And eventually, the mosquito-borne virus set up shop in Florida. Now the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says another nasty pathogen is hitching a ride to the U.S. with travelers: multidrug-resistant Shigella.  Shigella is just about as bad as the word sounds. The bacteria infect your intestines and trigger crampy rectal pain, bloody or mucus-laced diarrhea and vomiting. Multidrug-resistant Shigella has caused several outbreaks over the past year in the U.S., the CDC reports Thursday in the journal Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report. At least 243 people have gotten sick and about 20 percent were hospitalized. Those numbers may not sound like much — especially when you consider a half-million Americans get regular shigellosis each year. So what's the big deal? Well, this strain of Shigella is resistant to the go-to drug for the bacteria: ciprofloxacin.  "If rates of resistance become this high, in more places, we'll have very few options left for treating Shigella with antibiotics by mouth," says epidemiologist Anna Bowen, who led the study. Then doctors will have to resort to IV antibiotics. Shigellais incredibly contagious. It spreads through contaminated food and water. "As few as 10 germs can cause an infection," Bowen says. "That's much less than some other diarrhea-causing germs." From May to February, the Cipro-resistant strain popped up in 32 states, with large clusters in California, Massachusetts and Pennsylvania. Bowen and her team linked several of these outbreaks to international travel, including trips to India, the Dominican Republic and Morocco.

Flint, Mich.: State Water Control Hard to Swallow - Nappier, known to most as Jackie, always had thick hair, which she wore long during her childhood. But suddenly she was losing her hair — and she was far from the only one. Across this shrinking Rust Belt city, residents’ hair and eyelashes began falling out. One woman confessed that she cried every time she cleaned the thick strands out of her shower drain. At Nappier’s home, she and other family members continued to get sick, even though they heeded the series of boil-water advisories the city issued over the summer after E. coli and other bacteria were detected in the water system. Her daughter Glenda Colton returned to Flint from Ohio in the fall and promptly broke out in a rash across her neck and chest. In December and early January, Nappier’s grandchildren started vomiting and having diarrhea, she said, and they complained that their skin was itchy after showering. One day she ran a bath, and the water was the color of tea. The whole family switched to using bottled water for drinking, cooking and sometimes even bathing. In January she and the rest of the city’s nearly 100,000 residents received a letter explaining that water testing revealed high levels of trihalomethanes, a group of chemicals known as THMs. Byproducts of the chlorination process, THMs have been linked to increased rates of cancer, kidney and liver failure and adverse birth outcomes. It later emerged that the city knew since the previous May that the THM levels were high — in some places, twice the maximum allowed by the Environmental Protection Agency. A few weeks later, Nappier returned home from the senior center where she volunteers and ate a bowl of beef vegetable soup her daughter had mistakenly prepared with tap water. A few days later, she was so dehydrated from constant diarrhea that she asked to be taken to the Hurley Medical Center.

Global Week of Actions against GMO Trees in Brazil Ends in Success -- Thursday morning 300 peasants organized by La Via Campesina occupied the meeting of the Brazil National Biosafety Technical Commission (CTNBio) in Brasilia, which was convening to discuss the release of three new varieties of transgenic plants in Brazil including a request by FuturaGene to legalize their genetically engineered eucalyptus trees. The CTNBio meeting was interrupted and eventually cancelled. Earlier this morning, 1,000 women of the Brazil Landless Workers’ Movement (MST) from the states of São Paulo, Rio de Janeiro and Minas Gerais occupied the operations of FuturaGene Technology Brazil Ltda, a subsidiary of Suzano timber corporation, in the municipality of Itapetininga, in São Paulo.  This location is where transgenic eucalyptus, known as H421 is being developed and tested. During the protest, the MST destroyed the seedlings of transgenic eucalyptus trees there and denounced the potential impacts that would be caused by the release of transgenic eucalyptus if approved by CTNBio.  According to Atiliana Brunetto, a member of the National MST, the impending historic decision of CTNBio regarding GE eucalyptus trees must respect the Brazilian legislation and the Biodiversity Convention to which Brazil is a signatory. “The precautionary principle is always ignored by CTNBio. The vast majority of its members are placed in favor of business interests of the large multinationals at the expense of environmental, social and public health consequences,” he says.

GMO Trees Approved in Brazil in Violation of National Law and International Protocols - Today the Brazilian Technical Commission on Biosafety (CTNBio) formally approved an industry request to release genetically engineered (GE) eucalyptus trees. The application was made by FuturaGene, a company owned by Brazilian pulp and paper company Suzano. This is the first approval for commercial release of GE trees in Brazil or Latin America. Organizations in Brazil are exploring legal avenues to stop the commercial release of GE eucalyptus trees, pointing out that this decision violates national law. An  email from CTNBio member Paulo Pase de Andrade to the Campaign to STOP GE Trees dated 8 April, stated that the decision to approve GE eucalyptus was already made, indicating that today’s meeting was merely a technicality where FuturaGene’s request would be rubber stamped.  World Rainforest Movement’s International Coordinator Winnie Overbeek stated, “CTNBio’s approval of GE eucalyptus trees was no surprise. Over the years, CTNBio has made many decisions in favor of releasing GMO crops in Brazil, ignoring – as also happened in this case - protests from a wide range of groups of society. In this case they also ignored protest letters signed by more than 100,000 people.” He continued, “The Commission systematically disregards the precautionary principle, including the urgent need for detailed studies of the various impacts of this dangerous technology, even though this violates the 2008 decision on GE trees made by the UN Convention on Biological Diversity (UN CBD), to which Brazil is a signatory.”

Plowing prairies for grains: Biofuel crops replace grasslands nationwide -- Clearing grasslands to make way for biofuels may seem counterproductive, but University of Wisconsin-Madison researchers show in a study today (April 2, 2015) that crops, including the corn and soy commonly used for biofuels, expanded onto 7 million acres of new land in the U.S. over a recent four-year period, replacing millions of acres of grasslands. The study -- from UW-Madison graduate student Tyler Lark, geography Professor Holly Gibbs, and postdoctoral researcher Meghan Salmon -- is published in the journal Environmental Research Letters and addresses the debate over whether the recent boom in demand for common biofuel crops has led to the carbon-emitting conversion of natural areas. It also reveals loopholes in U.S. policies that may contribute to these unintended consequences. "We realized there was remarkably limited information about how croplands have expanded across the United States in recent years," says Lark, the lead author of the study. "Our results are surprising because they show large-scale conversion of new landscapes, which most people didn't expect." The conversion to corn and soy alone, the researchers say, could have emitted as much carbon dioxide into the atmosphere as 34 coal-fired power plants operating for one year -- the equivalent of 28 million more cars on the road.

Why the Ethanol Mandate Is Terrible Policy -  It used to be that for every gallon of ethanol blended into gasoline, blenders received a “tax credit” ranging around half a dollar. Foreign imports of ethanol were also subject to a 54-cent tariff. Both of these programs were allowed to lapse at the end of 2011. Still on the books, however, is the federal Renewable Fuel Standard, or RFS. Like the ethanol tax credit, the RFS came as a result of the Energy Policy Act of 2005. The RFS mandates a minimum number of gallons of different types of ethanol that must be blended into U.S. gasoline each year. The minimum amount is set to rise over time, and blenders are subject to fines if they do not comply.  The peculiar nature of the RFS has led to some absurd unintended consequences. For example, cellulosic ethanol (which is made chiefly from grass) isn’t commercially available in the necessary quantities to meet its RFS. Blenders have therefore wound up getting fined for not using a product that doesn’t exist. Similarly, because the formula used to set the RFS greatly overestimated the number of miles Americans would drive, blenders were required to use more ethanol than could be safely blended into all the gasoline used in American cars. The problems with the ethanol mandate, however, go beyond poor legislative drafting.  The ethanol mandate has led to the conversion of millions of acres of grassland and wetlands into cornfields. The environmental costs from these conversions swamp any reduced emissions from using ethanol-diluted gasoline. And while oil imports have indeed fallen in recent years, this has been the result of the boom in unconventional oil and gas production, rather than the substitution of biofuels.

New Report Debunks ‘Myth’ That GMOs are Key to Feeding the World - The biotechnology industry "myth" that feeding billions of people necessitates genetically engineered agriculture has been debunked by a new report out Tuesday by the nonprofit health organization Environmental Working Group. The report, Feeding the World Without GMOs (pdf), argues that investment in genetically modified organisms, or GMOs, has failed to expand global food security. It advocates more traditional methods "shown to actually increase food supplies and reduce the environmental impact of production." Over the past 20 years, the report notes, global crop yields have only grown by 20 percent—despite the massive investment in biotechnology.On the other hand, it continues, in recent decades "the dominant source of yield improvements has been traditional crossbreeding, and that is likely to continue for the foreseeable future." As the report states, "seed companies' investment in improving yields in already high-yielding areas does little to improve food security; it mainly helps line the pockets of seed and chemical companies, large-scale growers and producers of corn ethanol." After examining recent research on GMO crop production, the report also found:
  • Genetically modified crops—primarily corn and soybeans—have not substantially contributed to global food security and are primarily used to feed animals and cars, not people.
  • GMO crops in the US are not more productive than non-GMO crops in western Europe.
  • A recent case study in Africa found that crops that were crossbred for drought tolerance using traditional techniques improved yields 30 percent more than genetically engineered varieties.
Monsanto’s “Discredit Bureau” Really Does Exist --- Reuters is reporting that Monsanto is demanding a sit-down with members of the World Health Organization (WHO) and the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC). This international scientific body is being called on the carpet for reporting that Monsanto’s most widely sold herbicide, which is inextricably linked to the majority of their genetically engineered products, is probably carcinogenic to humans.  In a DO-YOU-KNOW-WHO-WE-ARE moment, Monsanto’s vice president of global regulatory affairs Philip Miller said the following in interview: "We question the quality of the assessment. The WHO has something to explain." Evidence for the carcinogenicity of Glyphosate comes from a peer-reviewed study published in March of 2015 in the respected journal The Lancet OncologyCarcinogenicity of tetrachlorvinphos, parathion, malathion, diazinon, and glyphosate   Recently, I attended a talk by Monsanto’s Dr. William “Bill” Moar who presented the latest project in their product pipeline dealing with RNA. Most notably, he also spoke about Monsanto’s efforts to educate citizens about the scientific certainty of the safety of their genetically engineered products. The audience was mostly agricultural students many of whom were perhaps hoping for the only well-paid internships and jobs in their field.  One student asked what Monsanto was doing to counter the “bad science” around their work. Dr. Moar, perhaps forgetting that this was a public event, then revealed that Monsanto indeed had “an entire department” (waving his arm for emphasis) dedicated to “debunking” science which disagreed with theirs. As far as I know this is the first time that a Monsanto functionary has publicly admitted that they have such an entity which brings their immense political and financial weight to bear on scientists who dare to publish against them. The Discredit Bureau will not be found on their official website.

Scientism and the Secret “Science” on Roundup - Three Chinese citizens are suing the government trying to force it to disclose the secret information it has on Roundup and the process by which it approved Roundup. We see how the Chinese government is at one with those of the US and EU in wanting to help Monsanto and other corporations keep the actual evidence about the severely toxic and cancer-causing effects of chemicals like Roundup secret from the people. What’s more, these corporations and governments evidently hold to an entirely new concept and paradigm of “science” under which the alleged scientific evidence is to be kept secret from the people, and research materials themselves made available to researchers only under corporate supervision. Instead, government and media elites are to publicly release whatever information the corporations see fit to publicize, this is to be christened as “science”, and the people are supposed to believe it on faith. This is a significant departure from previous scientific practice and in direct contradiction of the self-image and propaganda of today’s capital-S “Science” (i.e., scientism). Yet evidently the mainstream of the STEM and academic establishment supports this new concept and practice of secret alleged science. Therefore, today’s scientific establishment is nothing more or less than an authoritarian cult.

Fields of Toxic Pesticides Surround the Schools of Ventura County - Food and Environment Reporting Network: Oxnard and surrounding Ventura County grow more than 630 million pounds of strawberries a year, enough to feed 78 million Americans. But that bounty exacts a heavy toll: strawberries rank among California’s most pesticide-intensive crops. The pesticides that growers depend on—a revolving roster of caustic and highly volatile chemicals called fumigants—are among the most toxic used in agriculture. They include sixty-six chemicals that have been identified by the state’s Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment as the most likely to drift through the air and cause harm. Studies in laboratory animals and humans have linked many of these chemicals—including the organophosphate chlorpyrifos and fumigants 1,3-Dichloropropene (1,3-D), metam sodium, methyl bromide and chloropicrin, all used in strawberry production—to one or several chronic health conditions, including birth defects, asthma, cancer and multiple neurodevelopmental abnormalities.  By 2012, the most recent year for which data is available, more than 29 million pounds of these chemicals—more than half the total used in the state—were applied in just 5 percent of California’s 1,769 census ZIP codes. In two ZIP codes that Zuñiga knows well—areas that include the Oxnard High neighborhood where she trained and south Oxnard, where she lives—applications of these especially toxic pesticides, which were already among the highest in the state, rose between 61 percent and 84 percent from 2007 to 2012, records at the California Department of Pesticide Regulation show. Both are among the ten ZIP codes with the most intensive use of these pesticides in California. And both have sizable Latino populations—around 70 percent—thanks, in part, to the large number of farm jobs in the area. The great majority of the people who work in the strawberry fields in Oxnard, which hosts the largest population of farmworkers in Ventura County, come from Mexico.

The American West Dries Up -  Getty Images photographer Justin Sullivan traveled to lakes and reservoirs in California, Utah, and Arizona to capture the following scenes of an increasingly waterless West.

NOAA Projects 60 Percent Chance El Niño Lasts All Year As California Fries --The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) is predicting a 60 percent chance that the El Niño it declared in March will continue all year. An El Niño is a weather pattern “characterized by unusually warm ocean temperatures in the Equatorial Pacific.” Robust El Niños are associated with extreme weather around the globe. They also generally lead to global temperature records, as the short-term El Niño warming adds to the underlying long-term global warming trend. El Niños are typically California drought-breakers, but as the top graph shows, that hasn’t been the case so far. As I discussed last week, some climatologists believe that we may be witnessing the start of the long-awaited jump in global temperatures — a jump that could be as much as as 0.5 °F. It already appears likely that March will be hot enough to set yet another global record for the hottest 12 months on record (April 2014 through March 2015) and a global record for hottest start to a year (January through March) ever.  NOAA released its “consensus probabilistic forecast” of the El Niño Southern Oscillation (ENSO) for the rest of this year, from its Climate Prediction Center (CPC) and Columbia University’s International Research Institute (IRI) for Climate and Society. Note that the ENSO state — El Niño, neutral, or La Niña — is generally based on the sea surface temperature (SST) anomaly in the NINO3.4 region of the Equatorial Pacific.

'Warm blob' in Pacific Ocean linked to weird weather across the US -- An unusually warm patch of surface water, nicknamed 'the blob' when it emerged in early 2014, is part of a Pacific Ocean pattern that may be affecting everything from West Coast fisheries and water supplies to East Coast snowstorms. The blob is just one element of a broader pattern in the Pacific Ocean whose influence reaches much further -- possibly to include two bone-chilling winters in the Eastern U.S.A long-lived patch of warm water off the West Coast, about 1 to 4 degrees Celsius (2 to 7 degrees Fahrenheit) above normal, is part of what's wreaking much of this mayhem, according to two University of Washington papers to appear in Geophysical Research Letters, a journal of the American Geophysical Union. "In the fall of 2013 and early 2014 we started to notice a big, almost circular mass of water that just didn't cool off as much as it usually did, so by spring of 2014 it was warmer than we had ever seen it for that time of year," said Nick Bond, a climate scientist at the UW-based Joint Institute for the Study of the Atmosphere and Ocean, a joint research center of the UW and the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. Bond coined the term "the blob" last June in his monthly newsletter as Washington's state climatologist. He said the huge patch of water -- 1,000 miles in each direction and 300 feet deep -- had contributed to Washington's mild 2014 winter and might signal a warmer summer. Ten months later, the blob is still off our shores, now squished up against the coast and extending about 1,000 miles offshore from Mexico up through Alaska, with water about 2 degrees Celsius (3.6 degrees Fahrenheit) warmer than normal. Bond says all the models point to it continuing through the end of this year.

Governor Orders Water Cuts Amid Record Low Snowpack -- We are officially in uncharted territory — in more ways than one. The Sierra Nevada snowpack, which typically supplies nearly a third of California’s water, is showing the lowest water content on record: 6 percent of the long-term average for April 1. That doesn’t just set a new record, it shatters the old low-water mark of 25 percent, which happens to have been last year’s reading (tied with 1977). Things are so bad that Governor Jerry Brown decided to slog into the field for the manual snow survey on Wednesday morning. He didn’t need snowshoes but he did bring along a first-ever executive order mandating statewide water reductions. “We’re in a historic drought and that demands unprecedented action,” he told reporters who made it to the Sierra survey site off of Highway 50. The 31-point program is wide-ranging, though direct actions are focused on urban water consumption, aiming for a “mandatory” 25 percent reduction compared to 2013 levels. It will be up to the State Water Resources Control Board and more than 400 local water agencies to work out how to implement and enforce the mandates. The initiative also includes new incentives for replacing lawns with drought-friendly landscaping, consumer rebates for water-saving appliances, and special assistance for residents whose wells have run dry. While the state’s Department of Water Resources does monthly snow surveys during the winter season, the April 1 survey is the benchmark for assessing the season as a whole. That’s when snowfall is reckoned to have peaked and the runoff season gets underway. Six percent on April 1 is essentially saying there’s next-to-nothing to show for an entire winter’s snow accumulation.

California drought: Will the Golden State turn brown? -  California is facing a catastrophic environmental disaster. America's erstwhile Golden State is in the midst of a severe drought which shows no sign of letting up. Even the threat of earthquakes seems to fade in comparison to the water crisis, now in its fourth year. Nasa scientists have projected that reservoirs could run dry within a year and there is growing pressure on ground water supplies, which are dwindling rapidly. The drought is a problem of epic proportions and it could - many say should - result in a seismic shift in attitudes towards water. "Hopefully people will look at a green lawn and find it as annoying as second-hand cigarette smoke," says Nancy Vogel of the California Department of Water Resources.Last week the state's governor, Jerry Brown, announced mandatory water rationing on scale that California has never experienced before. The goal is a 25% reduction in usage. But the governor's plan has been criticised for not requiring similar rationing for farmers, who make up the large majority of the state's water usage. Meanwhile, local authorities and individuals have been put on notice that beautifully manicured green lawns should go. Homeowners will not be forced to remove them, although many cities have introduced limits on the number of days irrigation systems can be used. And cities have been ordered to stop watering ornamental grasses in the median areas of highways. "For the average Californian the easiest and quickest way to save water is to turn sprinklers off," Ms Vogel says. "Just let the lawn go brown or replace it with drought tolerant landscaping."

Scary Times For California Farmers As Snowpack Hits Record Lows -- The water outlook in drought-racked California just got a lot worse: Snowpack levels across the entire Sierra Nevada are now the lowest in recorded history — just 6 percent of the long-term average. That shatters the previous low record on this date of 25 percent, set in 1977 and again last year. And it has huge implications for tens of millions of people who depend on water flowing downstream from melting snow — including the nation's most productive farming region, the California Central Valley. Last year was already a tough year at La Jolla Farming in Delano, Calif. Or as farm manager Jerry Schlitz puts it, "Last year was damn near a disaster." La Jolla is a vineyard, a thousand-or-so acres of neat lines of grapevines in the southern end of the San Joaquin Valley. It depends on water from two sources: the federal Central Valley Project and wells. Until last year, Schlitz says, wells were used to supplement the federal water. "Now, we have nothing but wells. Nothing. There's no water other than what's coming out of the ground," he says. Last year, one of those wells at La Jolla dried up. The farm lost 160 acres — about a million dollars' worth of produce, plus the wasted labor and other resources. This year, the outlook is no better: The Central Valley Project, which decides where and when to release what water is left in California's reservoirs, has already warned that most farmers downstream won't get any water for the second straight year.

California Olive Growers Cutting Down Orchards - “My grandfather planted our first olives in about 1945-1950,” says David DePaoli, an olive grower whose family started farming in California about 100 years ago. When DePaoli took over from his father, he increased their original 20 acres of olives to 40, then 60 acres. In 2010, he started tearing those trees out. “The last 20 acres that I still have, my father planted anywhere from 1957-1972,” DePaoli says. “It’s a family tradition and it’s hard to remove those trees.” At 61 years old, DePaoli has literally grown up with the same orchard that he’s now contemplating tearing down. “But within the next two or three years those trees will probably have to come out, too.”Though California growers recognize that farming is a business, it doesn’t mean there’s no sentiment involved when it’s time to move on. In the case of olives—a tree that can live well over 500 years and still bear fruit—farmers are losing history as well. “Olives have been around since the start of civilization,” DePaoli says. “It literally hurts to pull them out.” Unlike growers who live in areas suited to only one crop, California’s olive growers have many other lucrative options to choose from.  The most popular option is almonds, whose price has climbed from less than a dollar in 1999 to more than $3 a pound today. “Almond trees are really good money,” says Burkett. Not only do new trees start producing within three years (compared to eight for another nut like pistachio), the harvesting process is mechanized, cutting down on annual labor costs. “In the table olive business, harvest can take over 50 percent of the farmer’s gross income,”

California, by the Nuts - In response to the four-year-old California drought, Governor Jerry Brown ordered a 25 percent cut in water use by municipalities across the state last week. The edict has led to a familiar ring of selective fault-finding that displaces a major system failure—such that California public officials bear responsibility for—onto the collective backs of society. Is the drought the fault of the lifestyle at large? No, it’s not. Are we all in this together? Not a chance. The New York Times ran a front-page feature, though, pondering if this was the end of the California dream. “California Drought Tests History of Endless Growth,” the headline proclaimed, before going on to breathlessly wonder how Hollywood and Silicon Valley would survive if, in the future, “people are forbidden to take a shower for more than five minutes.” California’s largest newspaper decided to point the finger at individual members of the one percent. Noting that cities including Beverly Hills, Malibu, and Newport Beach use significantly more water than more plebian places like, well, Los Angeles, the Los Angeles Times gave space to one Stephanie Pincetl, who was identified as having “worked on the UCLA water-use study.” Her take: “The problem lies, in part, in the social isolation of the rich, the moral isolation of the rich.”  The common theme? California sybarites are responsible for their water woes. Barely mentioned was the fact that the clueless wealthy might just as well go ahead and turn on the taps—let ten thousand golf course bougainvillea bloom. They aren’t the problem, or not much of the problem.  Listen up: California’s agricultural sector uses about 80 percent of the state’s water. As Mother Jones reported, it takes one gallon of water to grow a single almond, and nearly five gallons to make a walnut edible.

Farmers Use Water. Get Over It. -  Farming takes lots of water. There’s really no way around that. So I was a little surprised at how appalled many people seemed to be when I mentioned earlier this week that agriculture accounts for about 80 percent of California’s water use and 2 percent of its gross domestic product. To me this feels a little like complaining that California’s motion picture industry uses up 97 percent of California’s actors yet generates only 2.8 percent of GDP. Different industries require different inputs, and there is nothing per se wrong with farmers using a lot more of California’s water than its city dwellers do.  There is also nothing wrong with growing crops in California. The U.S. Department of Agriculture estimates that agriculture accounts for about 80 percent of “consumptive water use” nationwide, so California’s dependence on irrigation isn’t anomalous. Easterners have this weird fixation with California being the artificial and immoral colonization of a desert. There are definitely communities in Southern California that exist only because of water hauled in from hundreds of miles away, and I’ll leave it to you to judge whether that’s immoral. But New York City couldn’t survive without water piped in from mountain reservoirs 100 miles away. Large human settlements are by definition unnatural. So is farming. That said, California’s Central Valley, where most of the state’s farming gets done, has always had tons of water. It doesn’t all come in the form of rain, especially not in the southern half of the valley, but it does flow through as runoff from the snowmelt and rainstorms of the Sierra Nevada and other mountain ranges. When California became a state in 1850, the Central Valley boasted two mighty rivers, each navigable by steamboat for hundreds of miles, and the largest freshwater lake west of the Mississippi.

Beneath California Crops, Groundwater Crisis Grows - Even as the worst drought in decades ravages California, and its cities face mandatory cuts in water use, millions of pounds of thirsty crops like oranges, tomatoes and almonds continue to stream out of the state and onto the nation’s grocery shelves.But the way that California farmers have pulled off that feat is a case study in the unwise use of natural resources, many experts say. Farmers are drilling wells at a feverish pace and pumping billions of gallons of water from the ground, depleting a resource that was critically endangered even before the drought, now in its fourth year, began.  In some places, water tables have dropped 50 feet or more in just a few years. With less underground water to buoy it, the land surface is sinking as much as a foot a year in spots, causing roads to buckle and bridges to crack. Shallow wells have run dry, depriving several poor communities of water.Scientists say some of the underground water-storing formations so critical to California’s future — typically, saturated layers of sand or clay — are being permanently damaged by the excess pumping, and will never again store as much water as farmers are pulling out.“Climate conditions have exposed our house of cards,” said Jay Famiglietti, a NASA scientist in Pasadena who studies water supplies in California and elsewhere. “The withdrawals far outstrip the replenishment. We can’t keep doing this.”

OID, SSJID defy federal fish flows - The Oakdale and South San Joaquin irrigation districts defied the federal government Wednesday by diverting some Stanislaus River water to a local reservoir, where it might help thirsty crops, rather than releasing it down the river to benefit fish. The move follows an announcement Tuesday that the irrigation districts are willing to go to extraordinary lengths, including a court battle, to protect water they believe belongs to farmers. A planned 10-day surge in the river level to help fish, called a pulse flow, began at 1 a.m. Wednesday with an increase of water released from New Melones Dam near Jamestown. Rather than letting it flow downstream through Tulloch and Goodwin dams, which are controlled by the districts, carrying young fish on down the river toward the Delta and ocean, the districts sent the extra water to their Woodward Reservoir north of Oakdale. “We don’t know whose water that is,” OID General Manager Steve Knell said. “We want to make sure it’s not farming water, so we decided to divert it.” Related Federal officials blinked first in the short standoff, reducing New Melones releases to normal by 8:30 a.m. Wednesday, followed by a conference call involving the districts and the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation. Both will meet Thursday with leaders of the State Water Resources Control Board and National Marine Fisheries Service “in hopes of resolving this complicated and challenging issue,” Knell said.

Half of urban California’s water is used to water the grass - Los Angeles has been urging residents to cut back on watering their lawns.  As California searches for ways to dramatically cut its water use, the lawn may have to go, or at least shrink. About half of water usage in the state’s urban areas goes for landscaping, said Jeffrey Mount, a senior fellow at the Public Policy Institute of California and a water expert. “We have a lot of room in the urban sector to adjust,” and the most obvious place is in landscaping. Reducing the amount of water devoted to lawns won’t have a major negative impact on the economy or on lifestyle, he said.  On Wednesday, California Gov. Jerry Brown ordered statewide water reductions of 25% for the first time ever, as California’s drought worsens. Previously he had sought voluntary cuts of 20%. The State Water Resources Control Board is expected to decide on new regulations over the next month. Brown’s announcement said campuses, golf courses, cemeteries and other large landscapes will have to make significant cuts in water use. But it did not mention residential lawns. PPIC says outdoor residential use accounts for one-third of urban water use, twice that of commercial and institutional landscapes, including golf courses and cemeteries.

Carly Fiorina blames environmentalists for California drought -  Carly Fiorina is blaming liberal environmentalists for what she calls a “man-made” drought in California. “It is a man-made disaster,” Fiorina, who is “seriously considering” a run for president in 2016, told the Blaze Radio on Monday.   “California is a classic case of liberals being willing to sacrifice other people’s lives and livelihoods at the altar of their ideology. It’s a tragedy.”  The former Hewlett-Packard CEO, a Republican, ran for a California Senate seat in 2010 against incumbent Democrat Barbara Boxer and lost. Now, the state is facing a devastating drought in its fourth year. On Wednesday, California Gov. Jerry Brown issued an executive order to restrict water usage. The directive orders California’s State Water Resources Control Board — which supplies 90 percent of Californians with water, according to The New York Times — to reduce its supply by 25 percent.  Republicans have blamed California’s protections for endangered species for the drought. In December, the House passed a bill to pump water from the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta to Southern California, a move that environmentalists said would harm endangered fish species. The Obama administration threatened to veto the bill.

More on pricing water - The use of moral suasion to encourage conservation is not unique to California. Public appeals for reductions in energy and water use are ubiquitous. And it is easy to see why. For political and jurisdictional reasons, it is often easier to mount a conservation campaign than raise energy or water prices in times of scarcity. But what impact do these interventions actually have on energy and water consumption? A new E2e working paper explores this question in the context of electricity. More than a year after the Fukishima earthquake, several of Japan’s nuclear power plants were still out of commission and electricity supply was tight. Policy makers were looking for ways to reduce electricity consumption during critical peak times. Koichiro Ito and his co-authors set out to test the relative effectiveness of an increase in critical peak electricity prices versus “moral suasion”:  a polite request for voluntary reductions in consumption. Customers who volunteered to be part of the study were randomly assigned to one of three groups:
  • A price treatment: Higher electricity prices during critical peak hours. Customers were charged prices ranging from $0.65/kWh – $1/kWh (up from a base rate of approximately $0.25/kWh).
  • A “moral suasion” treatment: Courteous day-ahead and same-day requests for electricity demand reductions during critical peak days.
  • Control group: No notification of/price increases during critical peak events.
It probably will not shock you to learn that the price treatment had a much larger impact on consumption as compared to moral suasion.  ... These qualitative results are compelling – and pertinent to a crisis we are currently facing here in California. An executive order issued last week signals a move in this direction.  The order  imposes mandatory water restrictions designed to achieve a 25 percent reduction in potable water use by urban residents.

If you told me the Governor was going to limit my water use in the future -- I'd start filling up gallon jugs today:  At a time when Californians need to be conserving water the most, many are doing the opposite: Water use in the midst of a severe and worsening drought declined by only 2.8 percent in February. The dismal figure — brought about in part by some Southern Californians actually increasing their water use — set off new waves of concerns among state officials struggling to curtail water consumption. That was the lowest conservation number since the state began gathering these figures in July 2014. The 2.8 percent reduction is in comparison to February 2013, the year the state is using as a baseline. via  OK, I know that this is not a response to expectations of changes in the future but what caused some people to use more water when every Californian knows there is a drought?

Dust Bowl 2.0: California's Historic Drought About To Get Even Worse As "Snowpack Melts Early Across The West" -- It has been a bad year for California whose drought is rapidly approaching historic proportions: according to the i, which cites climatologist Michael Anderson, "you’re looking on numbers that are right on par with what was the Dust Bowl." And it is about to get even worse. According to the USDA, the west-wide snowpack is melting earlier than usual, according to data from the fourth 2015 forecast by the United States Department of Agriculture's Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS). "Almost all of the West Coast continues to have record low snowpack," NRCS Hydrologist David Garen said. "March was warm and dry in most of the West; as a result, snow is melting earlier than usual."  Historically, April 1 is the peak snowpack. This year, the peak came earlier. There was little snow accumulation in March, and much of the existing snow has already melted. A consequence of the early snowmelt is that Western states will have reduced streamflow later this spring and summer.  In Western states where snowmelt accounts for the majority of seasonal water supply, information about snowpack serves as an indicator of future water availability. Streamflow in the West consists largely of accumulated mountain snow that melts and flows into streams as temperatures warm in spring and summer. National Water and Climate Center scientists analyze the snowpack, precipitation, air temperature and other measurements taken from remote sites to develop the water supply forecasts.

"California Officials Assure Residents There Still Plenty Of Other Natural Resources To Waste" -- With residents struggling to adjust to newly imposed restrictions on water usage amid the state’s continuing drought, California officials assured citizens Monday there are still plenty of other resources available for them to waste. “Although we as a state must take serious and difficult steps to conserve water, we want to make it clear that residents are still welcome to keep squandering every other resource as usual by leaving TVs on in empty rooms or throwing out perfectly good food,” said Department of Water Resources spokesman Mark Aronow, adding that, while it is crucial that Californians observe constraints on decorative water features and other nonessential uses of water, individual residents and businesses should feel free to continue their regular practices of putting recyclable containers into the trash, paving over soil to expand parking areas, and leaving storefront doors open with the building’s air conditioning turned up. “As long as you’re not using excess water, there are no government regulations stopping you from driving your car a handful of blocks to the convenience store and leaving it idling outside while you head in to buy bottled water or a styrofoam cup of coffee. We just ask that, afterwards, you make sure you hand-wash your vehicle using a single bucket of water instead of spraying it off with a hose.” Aronow added that if residents did their part and focused on wasting other resources for the time being, then the state’s water table could recover, and future generations of Californians would be able to know the joys of poorly setting up a lawn sprinkler that directs the majority of its water onto the roadway and sidewalk.

WSJ Survey: California Water Rules Won’t Dry Out Growth -- The new water restrictions put in place in California will have only a small impact on that state’s economy, said economists surveyed in April by The Wall Street Journal.  On April 1, California Gov. Jerry Brown mandated water restrictions in response to the ongoing drought in the state.  The target is a 25% savings in potable urban water consumption over the next nine months.  Agriculture was exempt from the restrictions. Bloomberg News recently estimated that if the Golden State were its own country, its economy would be the seventh largest in the world. The question is whether mandatory cuts in water use will curb some of the state’s economic activity. A slim majority, 51%, of the forecasters who answered the special questions on California said the drag from the restrictions will be too small to show up in economic data such as income growth, employment and retail activity. Another 44% thought the drag would be small but measurable in the data. Sean Snaith of University of Central Florida echoed a sentiment voiced by a few economists that there would be “a much greater impact if the restrictions are extended to agriculture.”  If so, the California economy would show a greater slowdown and consumers across the U.S. could see higher food prices. “The larger issue is what restrictions today do to growth going forward,” said Diane Swonk of Mesirow Financial, “It is yet another cost of being in California.”

Why the California drought will be worse than everyone thinks  — We’re told by economists that the California drought is no cause for concern to the nation. The agriculture industry isn’t being forced into additional cuts. Food prices will increase only slightly.  Stephen Levy, director and staff economist at the Center for Continuing Study of the California Economy in Palo Alto argues that the market will correct a water imbalance. The state can eventually draw from new sources — desalination plants, diversions from Canada, and Washington and Oregon, to name a couple states. Some state crops including cotton and alfalfa will likely be phased out.  As for prices, “the big price moves have had to do with housing and energy,” Levy said. “Food is a relatively small impact when moving the index [Consumer Price Index, or CPI].”  Likewise, Daniel A. Sumner, an economist at the University of California, Davis, doesn’t think price increases are imminent. He points out that California agriculture is just a part of the national food supply and that food prices are subject to much shifting global demand. He also notes that farmers have invested in wells to offset shortages. It’s working as a stopgap for price increases in a gap that’s growing shorter.  “Even a 10% price increase — larger than I think is likely — the effect on the CPI will be very small,” Sumner said.  It all sounds very reassuring. After all, so what if a quart of strawberries that used to cost $5 now costs $6?  No big deal — unless these economists are wrong. And, frankly, there’s a pretty strong case that should the drought persist, say another two to three years or more, prices will skyrocket. Remember, California is the biggest farm state in the nation, producing more than Iowa, Nebraska and Minnesota combined.

California Urban Water Use Restricted While Regulators Give Oil Industry Two More Years To Operate Injection Wells In Protected Groundwater Aquifers - With snowpack levels at just 6% of their long-term average, the lowest they’ve ever been in recorded history, California Governor Jerry Brown has announced new regulations to cut urban water use 25%, the first ever mandatory water restrictions in the state. California is in the fifth year of its historic, climate-exacerbated drought and, per a recent analysis by a senior water scientist at NASA, has only one year of water left in its reservoirs, while groundwater levels are at an all-time low. Half of the produce grown in America comes from California, yet 2015 is likely to be the second year in a row that California’s farmers get no water allocation from state reservoirs. In some parts of the state, agricultural operations have pumped so much groundwater that the land is starting to sink. Governor Brown’s executive order has been criticized for not including restrictions on groundwater pumping by agricultural operations, but Brown defended the decision, saying that hundreds of thousands of acres of land were already lying fallow because of the state’s water crisis. There’s another industry conspicuously exempt from California’s new water restrictions, though. “Fracking and toxic injection wells may not be the largest uses of water in California, but they are undoubtedly some of the stupidest,” Zack Malitz of the environmental group Credo says, according to Reuters. Water use by the oil and gas industry — primarily for fracking — is on the rise around the country, though in California fracking takes significantly less water than in places like Texas or Pennsylvania. Just how much water fracked wells are using is currently not known, however, because reporting requirements for water used in the oil development process, signed into law late last year by Governor Brown, do not begin until the end of the month.

California Suffers Historic Drought While Oil Industry Wastes 2 Million Gallons of Water Daily: All resources, particularly natural resources, on Earth are finite and when they are gone there is nothing whatsoever that will bring them back. It is why conserving or managing resources is crucial to a civilization’s survival and why a resource like life-giving water is such a precious resource; particularly during a time of drought. . As California suffers the fourth straight year of an historic drought, Governor Jerry Brown took the unprecedented step of mandating a 25% reduction in water use for all Californians; it is virtually water rationing. However, it is unlikely California will reduce its water use by a quarter, partly because some residents do not believe the mandate applies to them, and partly due to corporations’ lust for profit.  There is a very limited and diminishing amount of water underground, but it is prohibitively costly to pump it for agricultural use. What little water is left underground is either being sucked out, blended with carcinogens and toxic chemicals for fracking and oil wells, or stolen by a giant multi-national corporation and sold to residents whose wells have dried up or have been shut down due to oil industry poisoning them. Every single day in California, the oil and gas industry uses way more than 2 million gallons of what precious little water the state has remaining in dangerous extraction techniques such as fracking, acidizing, and cyclic steam injection. This abominable waste of water is in spite of California farmers, cities, and residents struggling to find ways to conserve water and meet the new mandate to reduce water use by 25% to survive an historic drought. While the rest of the state is now forced to do its share to conserve a rapidly diminishing water reserve, the oil and gas industry continues using, contaminating, and disposing of staggering amounts of precious water each day.

California: A Microcosm For Impending Global Water Crisis: The move by California to require mandatory cuts in water use for the first time in its history has highlighted the world’s looming water crisis and increased the focus on the links between sustainable water and sustainable energy. “We need a new paradigm,” says Steven Solomon, author of Water: The Epic Struggle for Wealth, Power and Civilization. “The days when we could just go further into the mountains and find new sources of water are past. We need to make better use of the water we have.” The good news is that this offers opportunities for investors in everything from IBM’s development of smart metering for water use to more mundane technology like devices to detect water leaks. “Mexico City loses 40 to 50% of its water to leaks,” says Solomon. “American cities lose 20 to 30%. Finding those leaks alone could save a lot of water.” The new “toolkit” for dealing with the water crisis already exists, Solomon says, with a number of techniques available for “adaptive systemic management” of water. Wastewater treatment, for instance, can recycle water and save energy at the same time. “The sludge can be used as fuel to provide energy for the treatment,” Solomon says. Individuals can do much of this themselves, recycling their own wastewater as “gray water” for things like watering the lawn that do not require drinking quality water. In the wake of California’s announcement, the Ygrene Energy Fund pointed out that property assessed clean energy (PACE) financing can be used for water upgrades as well.

Who Will Control The World’s Water: Governments Or Corporations? --Water is perhaps the world’s most important resource, and one of the most common resources. For decades water was regarded as a common good, and it was plentiful enough that in most parts of the world there was little money to be made off of it. Now as the world’s population continues to grow, all of that is changing. Late in March, Tetra Tech was awarded a $1B five year contract to help support the US Agency of International Development (USAID) and its water development strategies. Tetra Tech will help USAID by collecting data related to water use, develop water management strategies, and help improve access to water in select areas. This contract is far from the first in the area of water management. Today there are numerous companies focused on earning a profit based on water management, water provision, and water remediation. Water is so critical a resource that any discussion of privatizing water resources predictably draws a frequent public outcry as the fight over a water infrastructure bill in Congress last year showed. The truth is though, that water access is no more or less safe in the hands of corporations than in the hands of governments. There are certainly cases of corporations abusing their customers, but there are equally many cases of governments using their considerable power to oppress their citizens. Corporations are often owned by and responsible to shareholders (i.e. the general public). Further, while government objectives are often murky and depend on the people in office, corporate objectives are more straightforward – earn a profit.

A Megacity Runs Dry -- I am writing by candle light. The power cut has already lasted more than eight hours and I fear that the combination of events and outcome of what we are going through might be a foreshadowing of what’s soon to come around the world.  It started with an irony, that may well be the perfect metaphor: the largest city in a country that holds 20 percent of Earth’s fresh water supply ends up without any. A combination of climate change, years of deforestation, privatization and a badly managed and corrupt political system have come together in a perfect storm to throw my city into one of its darkest crises ever. We now face a reality of four days without water and two with. We might as well call it what it is: a total collapse.  Imagine a megacity like São Paulo as schools are forced to close, hospitals run out of resources, diseases spread, businesses shut down, the economy nose dives. Imagine the riots, the looting … what the police force, infamously known as one of the most violent in the world, will do as this dystopian scenario engulfs us. One of the great modern, rising capital cities of the world suddenly falls apart. We brought this on ourselves. We buried our rivers under concrete, we polluted the reservoirs, chopped down trees, erased the local biome to grow sugar cane, soy and corn to fuel our vehicles, feed our appetites, our extravagant lifestyles.  I read the IPCC reports warning us of catastrophe. I watched the documentaries exposing corporations’ hidden agendas … the YouTube videos showing polluted oceans, overfishing, extracting, fracking and burning. I knew all this. And how markets march “forward” no matter what. How leaders pose for group shots with those golden pledges they never deliver … and how we, the People, march demanding change. This is personal … it’s about everything I love. And you have no idea how terrifying it is. It’s the kind of fear that you have no control over, that makes you grind your teeth at night while you sleep. There’s no language to describe this feeling of dread. No way to fix it. No time to fix it. This is the future that science warned us about. The new normal. And the truth is, I never realized it could happen so fast and that my friends, family and I would be forced to live through it, suffer like this. The battery on my phone is almost dead. The power has been out for 16 hours now. Still no water.

​The World Lost an Oklahoma-Sized Area of Forest in 2013, Satellite Data Show -- Oklahoma spans an area in the American South that stretches across almost 70,000 square miles. That’s almost exactly the same area of global forest cover that was lost in a single year, back in 2013. And it’s perhaps a useful way to visualize the ongoing loss of worldwide forest habitats—recall that in the first decade of the 21st century, the planet lost ​8 percent of its pristine forests.High resolution maps from Global Forest Watch, tapping new data from a partnership between the University of Maryland and Google, show that 18 million hectares (69,500 square miles) of tree cover were lost from wildfires, deforestation, and development the year before last. The maps were created by synthesizing 400,000 satellite images collected by NASA’s Landsat mission.The big surprise is the huge amount of forest loss in Canada and Russia. While Indonesia, long a global leader in deforestation, finally slowed its rate of destruction, northern boreal forests in Russia and Canada were literally burning up. Between 2011 and 2013, Russia and Canada jointly accounted for 34 percent of worldwide forest loss, according to the data.  Here's an interactive map, which you can use to examine the scale of forest loss around the world:

New Study Shows Arctic Permafrost May Be Thawing Faster Than We Thought - Scientists might have to change their projected timelines for when Greenland’s permafrost will completely melt due to man-made climate change, now that new research from Denmark has shown it could be thawing faster than expected.   Published Monday in the journal Nature Climate Changethe research shows that tiny microbes trapped in Greenland’s permafrost are becoming active as the climate warms and the permafrost begins to thaw. As those microbes become active, they are feeding on previously-frozen organic matter, producing heat, and threatening to thaw the permafrost even further.  In other words, according to the research, permafrost thaw could be accelerating permafrost thaw to a “potentially critical” level.  “The accompanying heat production from microbial metabolism of organic material has been recognized as a potential positive-feedback mechanism that would enhance permafrost thawing and the release of carbon,”  “This internal heat production is poorly understood, however, and the strength of this effect remains unclear.” The big worry climate scientists have about thawing permafrost is that the frozen soil is chock-full of carbon. That carbon is supposed to be strongly trapped inside the soil, precisely because it’s supposed to be permanently frozen — hence, “permafrost.” . It’s yet another feedback loop manifesting itself in Arctic permafrost regions — as climate change causes it to thaw, the thawing causes more climate change, which causes more thawing, et cetera, et cetera.

Canada glaciers to shrink 70% by 2100 - The glaciers of western Canada, one of the world’s most picturesque mountain regions, are likely to largely melt away over just three generations, scientists have warned. By 2100, the glaciers of Alberta and British Columbia are set to shrink by 75% in area compared to 2005 levels, and by 70% in volume, according to their predictions. But in two out of the three regions that were studied, the decline could be even more dramatic – over 90%. The loss will hit many sectors, from agriculture, forestry and tourism to ecosystems and water quality, the investigators warned. The study, published in the journal Nature Geoscience, was headed by Garry Clarke, a professor at the University of British Columbia in Vancouver. “The disappearance of (the) glaciers... will be a sad loss for those who are touched by the beauty of Canada’s mountain landscapes,” Clarke told AFP. “When the glaciers have gone, we lose the important services they provide: a buffer against hot, dry spells in late summer that keeps headwater streams flowing and cool, and sustains cool-water aquatic species.”

Western Canada May Lose 70 Percent Of Its Glaciers By The End Of This Century -- According to a study published this week in the journal Nature Geosciences, 70 percent of glaciers in Alberta and British Columbia could disappear by the end of the 21st century.  “What [glaciers] are telling us is that the climate is changing. The glaciers don’t respond to weather, so they don’t get confused about whether it was a cold winter or a hot summer,” Gary Clarke, lead author of the study and professor emeritus at University of British Columbia (UBC) told ThinkProgress. “When the glaciers are wasting away, we know that the climate isn’t helpful to them.  Western Canada’s glaciers are vast, covering some 10,000 square miles — an area larger than the state of Vermont. But according to the study, which looked at glacier melt under 24 different climate scenarios, human-caused climate change is threatening to nearly wipe out the glaciers.“According to our simulations, few glaciers will remain in the Interior and Rockies regions, but maritime glaciers, in particular those in northwestern British Columbia, will survive in a diminished state,” the paper reads, noting that the most substantial ice loss will most likely occur between 2020 and 2040. . According to the latest Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report, there is “very high confidence that globally, the mass loss from glaciers has increased since the 1960s.” That loss can be seen in the Europe’s Alpine glaciers, which have lost half of their volume since the 1850s. It is also on display in Africa, where glaciers have declined by 60 percent since the 1900s, and Alaska, where glaciers are melting at more than double the rate of ten years ago.

Greenland has massive lakes beneath the ice, repeatedly filling and draining away -- Researchers who are building the highest-resolution map of the Greenland Ice Sheet to date have made a surprising discovery: two lakes of meltwater that pooled beneath the ice and rapidly drained away. One lake once held billions of gallons of water and emptied to form a mile-wide crater in just a few weeks. The other lake has filled and emptied twice in the last two years. Researchers at Ohio State University published findings on each lake separately: the first in the open-access journal The Cryosphere and the second in the journal Nature. Ian Howat, associate professor of earth sciences at Ohio State, leads the team that discovered the cratered lake described in The Cryosphere. To him, the find adds to a growing body of evidence that meltwater has started overflowing the ice sheet's natural plumbing system and is causing "blowouts" that simply drain lakes away. "The fact that our lake appears to have been stable for at least several decades, and then drained in a matter of weeks -- or less -- after a few very hot summers, may signal a fundamental change happening in the ice sheet," Howat said. Each time the lake fills, the meltwater carries stored heat, called latent heat, along with it, reducing the stiffness of the surrounding ice and making it more likely to flow out to sea, he said.  Bevis explained the long-term implications. "If enough water is pouring down into the Greenland Ice Sheet for us to see the same sub-glacial lake empty and re-fill itself over and over, then there must be so much latent heat being released under the ice that we'd have to expect it to change the large-scale behavior of the ice sheet," he said.

Warming Arctic blamed for worsening summer heatwaves -  It seems our weather is getting slower – and hotter. Arctic warming appears to be aggravating summer heatwaves across Europe and North America, by putting the brakes on atmospheric circulation in mid-latitudes.  The team that uncovered this Arctic effect says it caused the Russian heatwave of 2010, which lasted six weeks, killing crops and causing massive forest fires; the west European scorcher of 2003 that killed an estimated 70,000 people; and possibly the record US heatwave of 2012, which decimated corn crops. Dim Coumou and colleagues at the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research in Germany studied atmospheric circulation in the Northern Hemisphere from 1979 to 2013. They found longer and more frequent hot spells in mid-latitudes that, they say, are likely to have been triggered by a reduction in the temperature difference between the Arctic, which is warming quickly, and mid-latitudes, where average warming is slower.  The Arctic has in fact warmed twice as fast as the rest of the globe, because of the melting of the ice replaces a reflective surface with dark ocean that absorbs much more solar energy. Climatologists believe that this temperature difference drives the general west-to-east movement of mid-latitude weather systems, such as the depressions that bring storms and the high-pressure systems that bring hot dry weather in summer and intense cold in winter. A smaller temperature difference slows these systems down, so their associated weather persists for longer.

NSIDC: Arctic sea ice conditions, April 7, 2015 -- Arctic sea ice extent for March 2015 averaged 14.39 million square kilometers (5.56 million square miles). This is the lowest March ice extent in the satellite record. It is 1.13 million square kilometers (436,000 square miles) below the 1981 to 2010 long-term average of 15.52 million square kilometers (6.00 million square miles). It is also 60,000 square kilometers (23,000 square miles) above the previous record low for the month observed in 2006.  The graph above shows Arctic sea ice extent as of April 5, 2015, along with daily ice extent data for four previous years. High-resolution image  The change in total Arctic sea ice extent for March is typically quite small. It tends to increase slightly during the first part of the month, reach the seasonal maximum, and then decline over the remainder of the month. Following the seasonal maximum recorded on February 25, this year instead saw a small decline over the first part of March, and then an increase, due largely to periods of late ice growth in the Bering Sea, Davis Strait and around Labrador. On March 26, extent had climbed to within 83,000 square kilometers (32,000 square miles) of the seasonal maximum recorded on February 25. Despite this late-season ice growth, analysts at the Alaska Ice Program report in their April 3 post that ice in the Bering Sea was very broken up.

Antarctica’s Record High Temp Bodes Ill for Ice -- The Antarctic Peninsula is one of the fastest warming spots on the planet, but in recent days, a stubborn weather pattern sent temperatures skyrocketing there, setting a record high for the continent.  While the event that set the mercury soaring — called a Chinook, or foehn wind — isn’t unusual for the region, it does seem to be increasing with climate change, as winds around Antarctica become stronger. Scientists are worried that if these sudden warming events become more common or more intense, they could put the already threatened ice of the peninsula in an even more precarious situation, with serious implications for global sea level rise. The peninsula of Antarctica is a slender arm of land that reaches out from the continent toward South America. It has warmed by about 5 °F in the past 50 years, while the globe as a whole has warmed about 1.3 °F. All that warmth has caused major changes to the peninsula, from the precipitous decline of penguin colonies to the spectacular collapse of two of the ice shelves on its fringe. Those floating platforms of ice buttress the land-bound glaciers behind them, controlling how quickly that ice flows into the sea, and its potential contributions to sea level rise.

The Last Time Oceans Got This Acidic This Fast, 96% of Marine Life Went Extinct - The biggest extinction event in planetary history was driven by the rapid acidification of our oceans, a new study concl​udes. So much carbon was released into the atmosphere, and the oceans absorbed so much of it so quickly, that marine life simply died off, from the bottom of the food chain up.   That doesn’t bode well for the present, given the disturbingly similar rate that our seas are acidifying right now. Parts of the Pacific, for instance, are already so acidic that sea snails’ shells begin dissolving as soon as they’re born. The biggest die-off in history, the Permian Extinction event, aka the Great Dying, extinguished over 90 percent of the planet's species—and 96 percent of marine species. A lot of theories have been put forward about why and how, exactly, the vast majority of Earth life went belly up 252 million years ago, but the new study, published in Science, offers some compelling evidence acidification was a key driver.  A team led by University of Edinburgh researchers collected rocks in the United Arab Emirates that were on the seafloor hundreds of millions of years ago, and used the boron isotopes found within to model the changing levels of acidification in our prehistoric oceans. Through this “combined geochemical, geological, and modeling approach,” the scientists say, they were able to accurately model the series of “perturbations” that unfolded in the era.   They now believe that a series of gigantic volcanic eruptions in the Siberian Trap spewed a great fountain of carbon into the atmosphere over a period of tens of thousands of years. This was the first phase of the extinction event, in which terrestrial life began to die out.   “During the second extinction pulse, however, a rapid and large injection of carbon caused an abrupt acidification event that drove the preferential loss of heavily calcified marine biota," the authors write.

Climate Scientist: No, My Study Is Not A “Death Blow To Global Warming Hysteria” - A recent study provided new estimates for the rate at which aerosols -- tiny particles of matter suspended in the atmosphere - deflect the sun's rays, measuring what is known as aerosol "radiative forcing." The study from Germany's Max Planck Institute for Meteorology, which analyzed data from 1850 to 1950, found that the level of radiative forcing from aerosols is "less negative" than commonly believed, suggesting that aerosols do not cool the atmosphere as much as previously thought. According to right-wing media, the study represents a "death blow to global warming hysteria." The reasoning behind the claim, which originated in a Cato Institute blog post, is that climate models rely on aerosols to offset much of the projected greenhouse gas effect from carbon dioxide. So if aerosols offset less warming than commonly believed, Cato claims "the amount of greenhouse gas-induced warming must also be less" and "we should expect less warming from future greenhouse gas emissions than climate models are projecting." The Cato blog post was picked up by the Daily CallerAmerican Thinker, Alex Jones' InfowarsInvestors' Business Daily, and Rush Limbaugh. But the study does nothing to dispute the scientific consensus on global warming, according to the study's author himself.  In response to media outlets using his study to make inference's about the climate's sensitivity to carbon dioxide, climate scientist Bjorn Stevens published a statement on the Max Planck Institute's website, debunking the notion that human-induced climate change is "called into question" by his study. He also wrote that his estimates of aerosol radiative forcing are "within the range" of the IPCC's previous findings (which he actually co-authored), and that "I continue to believe that warming of Earth's surface temperatures from rising concentrations of greenhouse gases carries risks that society must take seriously."

Climate sensitivity is unlikely to be less than 2C, say scientists - Does the fact that surface temperatures are rising slower than in previous decades mean scientists have overestimated how sensitive the Earth's climate is to greenhouse gases? It's a question that's popped up in the media from time to time. And the short answer is probably no, according to a new paper in Nature Climate Change. Using temperature data up to 2011, the authors work out a value of climate sensitivity of 2.5C, comfortably within the range where scientists have suggested the 'real' value lies. Questions about climate sensitivity are complicated, and won't be solved by any single bit of research. But the new paper seems to contribute to a growing confidence among scientists that climate sensitivity is unlikely to be less than 2C. Equilibrium climate sensitivity (ECS) is the warming we can expect per doubling of atmospheric carbon dioxide above pre-industrial levels. In 2013, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) estimated the value is likely to lie between 1.5 and 4.5C. This marked a change from previous reports, which put the lower boundary at 2C. The new paper says lowering of the limit was partly "an effect of considering observations over the warming hiatus". This refers to the last 15 years or so in which surface temperatures have risen slower than in past decades, even though we're emitting greenhouse gases faster.

Norway Oil Fund May Exclude From Investment on Climate Concerns - —Norway’s minority government on Friday said its sovereign-wealth fund should be allowed to exclude from investment companies that damage the global climate, and appointed an expert group to assess whether the fund should be allowed next year to start buying unlisted infrastructure. The $885 billion fund—one of the world’s largest investors, holding on average 1.3% of every listed global company—shouldn’t immediately exit its fossil fuel-exposed holdings such as coal assets, the government said. Instead, it should use the threat of exclusion as a tool to pressure companies to change their climate strategies, it said. “This criteria is broad and good, and behavior-based,” Norway’s Minister of Finance Siv Jensen told The Wall Street Journal in an interview. “I think this is a better ownership tool for the bank than product-based exclusions.” The fund, set up in the 1990s to safeguard Norway’s vast oil and gas revenues, has previously banned certain types of assets deemed unethical, including companies that produce nuclear weapons, cluster bombs, and tobacco, or that contribute to human rights violations such as child labor. Adding contribution to climate change to that list would be a signal to companies and other institutional investors to address climate change concerns. The fund bases its ethically-based exclusions on thorough assessments by an ethics council.

Following Canada’s Bad Example, Now UK Wants To Muzzle Scientists And Their Inconvenient Truths  - Techdirt has been following for a while Canada's moves to stop scientists from speaking out about areas where the facts of the situation don't sit well with the Canadian government's dogma-based policies. Sadly, it looks like the UK is taking the same route. It concerns a new code for the country's civil servants, which will also apply to thousands of publicly-funded scientists. As the Guardian reports:  Under the new code, scientists and engineers employed at government expense must get ministerial approval before they can talk to the media about any of their research, whether it involves GM crops, flu vaccines, the impact of pesticides on bees, or the famously obscure Higgs boson. The fear -- quite naturally -- is that ministers could take days before replying to requests, by which time news outlets will probably have lost interest. As a result of this change, science organizations have sent a letter to the UK government, expressing their "deep concern" about the code. A well-known British neurobiologist, Sir Colin Blakemore, told the Guardian: "The real losers here are the public and the government. The public lose access to what they consider to be an important source of scientific evidence, and the government loses the trust of the public,"

First Florida, Now Wisconsin, Bans the Words 'Climate Change' - The idea that you can make climate change go away by not talking about it is spreading. One month ago, we heard how officials and staff at the Florida Department of Environmental Protection were ordered not to use the terms “climate change” or “global warming” even when they were discussing the all-too-obvious impacts to their vulnerable state.  Now it’s Wisconsin’s turn. The staff of its Board of Commissioners of Public Lands (BCPL) has been told they can’t even discuss climate change, no matter what they call it. Staff members aren’t even permitted to respond to emails on the subject, following a vote this week by the three-member panel overseeing the agency. It includes two Republicans and one Democrat and the vote was 2-1.

Energy and Environment Update for April 10, 2015 - -- The House and Senate are in recess for the Easter and Passover holidays.  Several energy hearings are already scheduled for April, and more are certain to come soon.  More than 100 Senators and Representatives, nearly all Democrats, sent a letter March 31 supporting the Obama Administration’s efforts to demonstrate American leadership in United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change negotiations toward a global climate accord scheduled to be finalized in Paris this December.  Senators Brian Schatz (D-HI), Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI), Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), Bernie Sanders (I-VT), Barbara Boxer (D-CA), Ed Markey (D-MA), and Angus King (I-ME) sent a letter to Interior Secretary Sally Jewell April 1 asking the Interior Department to take the climate change impact of black carbon into account when it proposes updated air permitting regulations for drilling offshore in the Alaskan Arctic.  Senators Jeff Sessions (R-AL), James Inhofe (R-OK), Roger Wicker (R-MS), and John Barrasso (R-WY) sent a letter April 1 to Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Gina McCarthy seeking additional information on the science linking climate change to drought, hurricanes, and increased temperatures, including an analysis of agency climate change modeling results. House Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Energy and Power Chair Ed Whitfield (R-KY) sent a letter April 1 to Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Gina McCarthy charging that the agency set unrealistic deadlines when it proposed phasing out some hydrofluorocarbons. He contends that manufacturers will not be able to replace the refrigerants with cost effective alternatives beginning next January, when the proposal would begin phasing out their use.

Scientists seek source of giant methane mass over Southwest - Scientists are working to pinpoint the source of a giant mass of methane hanging over the southwestern U.S., which a study found to be the country’s largest concentration of the greenhouse gas. The report that revealed the methane hot spot over the Four Corners region — where Colorado, New Mexico, Utah and Arizona meet — was released last year. Now, scientists from the University of Colorado, the University of Michigan, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and NASA are conducting a monthlong study to figure out exactly where it came from. The answer could help reduce methane emissions that contribute to global warming. Last year’s study by NASA and the University of Michigan was based on images from a European satellite captured between 2003 and 2009. They showed the methane hot spot as a red blip over the area, which is about half the size of Connecticut. The study found the concentration of methane detected there would trap more heat in the atmosphere than all the carbon dioxide produced each year in Sweden.

Selling the Wind -- Would someone please tell the Guaraní of Guaraqueçaba in Brazil that their land is now a carbon “offset”? That’s ecological jargon for “get the hell out.” The Guaraní aren’t alone, either. Some of the Earth’s lowest carbon footprints are being wiped out in the name of green progress. In the Bajo Aguán region of Honduras, security guards working for the palm oil company Dinant have attacked and murdered farmers to make way for sprawling tree farms that promise to capture methane gas. In spite of its involvement in a hundred or more deaths, Dinant was awarded $15 million in World Bank loans in 2009 for soaking up emissions. Welcome to the world of cap and tradeThat’s why nineteen factories currently receiving the payments have stepped up production of their harmful coolant, deliberately using the most inefficient manufacturing processes available to generate as much waste gas as possible. Many companies earn more from destroying the by-product than from their actual product. Now that’s market efficiency.

Decarbonization --What will a green energy economy look like? Some imply that it will be more just. I think this will require a struggle. excerpt from here: This should prove to be a watershed year for the “de-carbonization” of the US power sector, with record volumes of coal-fired capacity to be shuttered, renewables capacity to be built, and natural gas to be consumed. The result, according to research firm Bloomberg New Energy Finance (BNEF): CO2 emissions from the power sector should drop to their lowest level since 1994. Three factors will combine to make 2015 one for the record books according to new BNEF research and forecasts: • This year, the US will install more renewables than ever before, with 18 new gigawatts (GW) coming online. BNEF forecasts new solar installations to reach an all-time annual high of 9.1GW in 2015 – with half of that built in California. Wind build should total 8.9GW (third-most all-time) with a third of that coming in Texas. • This is expected to be a record year for coal retirements in the US with 23GW forecast to come offline. That represents no less than 7% of all current US coal capacity. A confluence of factors is driving the change, including lower priced natural gas, new standards on mercury emissions, and the old age of many coal-fired units. • The power sector will burn more natural gas in 2015 than ever before – more even than in 2012, “the year of no winter”, when Henry Hub prices fell consistently below $3/MMBtu. Gas burn will rise to back-fill lost generation from retiring coal; but also, remarkably low gas prices have boosted burn totals by allowing efficient gas turbines to undercut the cost of coal-fired electricity. The result of this churn is that CO2 emissions from the power sector should fall to their lowest levels since 1994, BNEF has found. This would put power sector emissions 15.4% below 2005 levels.

Green imperialism - NATO plans to test the latest clean energy technologies in a war game due to be held in Hungary this coming June.  The military alliance’s website says over 1000 soldiers will take part in the exercise, which will use the latest self-contained wind and solar power cells. NATO assistant secretary general for emerging security challenges, ambassador Sorin Ducaru, said the focus was on deploying “smart energy” to battlefields around the world. “Now is the time to start thinking about multinational cooperation: by setting clear priorities; by bringing together groups of interested nations; and by achieving economies of scale,” he said. The potential for renewables to replace fossil fuels in a war zone was highlighted during the recent conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan, where NATO relied heavily on fuel to be transported by road to outlying bases. These were frequently attacked and ambushed by insurgents, leading to an estimated 3000 dead or wounded US soldiers between 2003 and 2007. Military forces are significant energy users. Together US army, navy and airforce are the country’s largest consumers of oil. The Pentagon has committed to investing in solar, with a 1 gigawatt target for 2025. In 2012 it started trials of biofuels in part of the US fleet, in what was dubbed the ‘Great Green Fleet’

Energy Glut Is More Than Just Crude - First up, let us ride the wave of renewables hitting California. For not only is its renewable generation target of 33% by 2020 aggressive, but also achievable. A rather impressive accolade considering if it were a country, it would rank as the 8th largest economy in the world. It is already meeting 22% of its electricity needs from non-hydro renewables, while solar generation in 2014 was more than three times higher than 2nd placed Arizona, and more than all other states….combined. California is on target to meet 5% of its electricity generation needs this year from utility-scale solar, while 2,300 MW of small scale solar capacity has been installed in homes and businesses, helping to offset the lack of hydro due to worsening drought conditions: Next up, we look at the momentum behind wind power in the US. Not only is it one of the fastest-growing sources of renewable power generation as it reaches 5% of the total generation mix, but with continued investment in technological innovation and grid integration the US could go from having 61 GW of wind generation capacity in 2013 to 224 GW by 2030, to 400 GW by 2050. On this trajectory, wind could account for 10% of the US generation mix by 2020, 20% by 2030, and 35% by 2050: Switching to excess in the world of black gold, Texas tea, according to the EIA’s drilling productivity report new well oil production for the Permian region is set to increase by a whopping 20% month-on-month in April, as a precipitous drop in oil prices spurs producers to be much more nimble in achieving greater efficiencies. A shift to ‘high grading’ – areas of greater productivity and lower costs – makes logical sense, but to see this shift manifesting itself so starkly illustrates the flexibility involved. Permian is still the most active US shale play, accounting for 35% of total active rigs (at 283 rigs). That said, the Permian rig count – like total oil rigs – has fallen 50% from its peak late last year.

Times: “The worst possible result” revealed at Fukushima — Plant Chief: Centuries may pass before humans find a way to deal with molten cores — Top Official: “We have no idea” what to do, “the technology simply doesn’t exist… I can’t say it’s possible” (VIDEOS) ENENews
  • NHK: The people trying to decommission the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant have been hit by setback after setback… and faced accusations of misconduct. It’s lost them a lot of public trust… [Naohiro Masuda, president of Tepco's decommissioning company] revealed he’s not sure if he can comply with the government set plan [for] removing the fuel…
  • Naohiro Masuda, president of Tepco’s Fukushima Daiichi Decommissioning Company: We have no idea about the debris. We don’t know its shape or strength. We have to remove it remotely from 30 meters above, but we don’t have that kind of technology, it simply doesn’t exist... We still don’t know whether it’s possible to fill the reactor containers with water. We’ve found some cracks and holes in the three damaged container vessels, but we don’t know if we found them all. If it turns out there are other holes, we might have to look for some other way to remove the debris. It’s a very big challenge. Honestly speaking, I cannot say it’s possible.
Fukushima disaster radiation detected off Canada's coast -- Radiation from Japan’s 2011 Fukushima nuclear disaster has for the first time been detected along a North American shoreline, though at levels too low to pose a significant threat to human or marine life, scientists said. Trace amounts of Cesium-134 and Cesium-137 were detected in samples collected on 19 February off the coast of Ucluelet, a small town on Vancouver Island in Canada’s British Columbia, said Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution scientist Ken Buesseler. “Radioactivity can be dangerous, and we should be carefully monitoring the oceans after what is certainly the largest accidental release of radioactive contaminants to the oceans in history,” Buesseler said in a statement. The levels the group detected are extremely low. For example, swimming in the Vancouver Island water every day for a year would provide a dose of radiation less than a thousand times smaller than a single dental X-ray, Woods Hole said.Tests off the coast of Japan shortly after the 2011 disaster measured radiation at 50 million Becquerels per cubic meter, Buesseler told Reuters. A “Becquerel” is a unit of radioactivity. The Canadian water sample contained 1.4 Becquerels per cubic meter of Cesium-134 and 5.8 Becquerels per cubic meter of Cesium-137.

Toxic alert after second series of blasts at Chinese chemical plant in two years -- At least 14 people were injured, with six in a stable condition in hospital, after a series of explosions at a chemical factory in southern China on Monday evening. It was the second time in two years that there have been blasts at the plant in Zhangzhou in Fujian province. Firefighters had brought the blaze under control on Tuesday morning and fires in two of three burning oil tanks had been extinguished, the fire department in Fujian province said in a statement on social media. The explosions at the paraxylene plant in Zhangzhou were caused by an oil spill near the tanks, according to officials at an emergency command centre at the scene. No chemical leaks or traces have been detected in villages downwind of the plant, the provincial government’s press office said. The injured include four firefighters. About 350 police and more than 600 firefighters were still at the scene on Tuesday morning. More than 400 soldiers have also been deployed to help deal with the incident, the provincial government said. Paraxylene (PX) is a chemical essential to the process of manufacturing plastic bottles and polyester clothing which is dangerous if inhaled or if absorbed through skin, causing different degrees of damage to abdominal organs and the nervous system. China is the world’s largest PX producer and consumer as of 2010. Safety concerns over PX factories have prompted environmental protests in China.  

The hidden reasons behind slow economic growth: Declining EROI, constrained net energy  --It should seem obvious that it takes energy to get energy. And, when it takes more energy to get the energy we want, this usually spells higher prices since the energy inputs used cost more. Under such circumstances there is less energy left over for the rest of society to use, that is, for the non-energy gathering parts--the industrial, commercial and residential consumers of energy--than would otherwise be the case. It shouldn't be surprising then that as fossil fuels, which provide more than 80 percent of the power modern society uses, become more energy intensive to extract and refine, there is a growing drag on economic activity as more and more of the economy's resources are devoted simply to getting the energy we want. A more formal way of talking about this is Energy Return on Investment or EROI. The "energy return" is the energy we get for a particular "investment" of a unit of energy. The higher the EROI of an energy source, the cheaper it will be in both energy and financial terms--and the more energy that will be left over for the rest of society to use. But we've seen a persistent decline in the EROI of U.S. oil and natural gas in the past century, a trend that is likely to be reflected elsewhere in the world as well. We rarely think of the energy it takes to get the energy we need because the processes are hidden from most of us. For example, when we drill for oil, there is energy expended to build the rigs, make the pipes, move and deliver them, drill the well, complete the well and pump the oil. The people involved all require energy in the form of food to live and tools and transportation to do their work. The oil is then transported by pipeline or tanker to refineries which use yet more energy to make the final products such as the diesel and gasoline we use. These products are transported to distributors and finally to retail service stations or large end users. This list is actually cursory, but it illustrates the scope of the activities involved.

What's the limit to the planet's growth? - I came across "The Limits to Growth" quite by accident in 1972, just when it was published. It was commissioned by the Club of Rome and written by a team of researchers at MIT led by Donella and Dennis Meadows. The book changed the way I thought about nature, people, history, everything. It persuaded me that physics matters, and that the idea of ever-expanding economic growth is a delusion. Although galloping economic growth already seemed normal to most younger people living in the developed world in 1972, the growth that took off after WWII was not normal. It is absolutely unprecedented in all of history. Nothing like it has ever occurred before: large and rapidly growing populations, accelerating industrialisation, expanding production of every kind. All new. The Meadows team found that we could avoid collapse if we slowed down the physical expansion of the economy. This, however, would mean two very difficult changes—slowing human population growth and slowing the entire cycle of physical production from material extraction through to the disposal of waste. The book was persuasive to me and I expected its message to have an impact on human affairs. Yet as the years rolled by, it seemed it was ignored. While scientists from Rachel Carson onwards have sounded the alarm about numerous problems associated with growth, our governments and bureaucracies have not paid attention. Economic growth has gradually been entrenched as the central objective of collective human effort. This really puzzles me.

“If We Dig Out All Our Fossil Fuels, Here’s How Hot We Can Expect It to Get” -- World leaders are once again racing to avert disastrous levels of global warming through limits on greenhouse gas emissions. An agreement may be in reach, but because of the vast supplies of inexpensive fossil fuels, protecting the world from climate change requires the even more difficult task of disrupting today’s energy markets. The White House last month released a blueprint to reduce United States emissions by as much as 28 percent by 2025. The plan lays the groundwork for the formal international climate talks this December in Paris, where the goal is a treaty on emissions that will seek to limit the rise in global temperatures to 3.6 degrees Fahrenheit above preindustrial levels. Beyond 3.6 degrees, scientists say, the most catastrophic climate consequences will occur, possibly including the melting of the Greenland ice sheet. Forging a treaty in Paris would be no small task, yet would be just the beginning of a solution. The greater challenge will be deciding how much of the world’s abundant supply of fossil fuels we simply let lie. (Bill McKibben and more recently The Guardian have taken a maximal position in their Leave It in the Ground campaign.) To understand the scope of this challenge, I’ve tallied the projected warming from fossil fuels extracted so far and the projected warming capacity of various fossil fuels that can be extracted with today’s technology. This accounting was done by taking the embedded carbon dioxide in each energy source and using a standard model for the relationship between cumulative carbon emissions and long-run temperature changes based on a 2009 Nature article. (More detail on the method is available here.) For those who don’t like suspense, here’s the total: an astonishing 16.2 degrees. And here’s how that breaks down. Since the industrial revolution, fossil fuels have warmed the planet by about 1.7 degrees. We are already experiencing the consequences of this warming. In recent weeks, we have learned that the world had its warmest winter on record and that Arctic sea ice hit a new low, even as intense storms continue to inflict harm on communities globally.

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