Environment

Will Ohio Gov. Kasich’s Anti-Green Resume Kill His Presidential Hopes? – Harvey Wasserman

July 27, 2015

The latest politician to leap toward the GOP nomination is widely known as America’s most anti-green governor. But he has a critical decision coming up that could help change that. Ohio Gov. John Kasich has established a national reputation as a leading enemy of renewable energy and enhanced energy efficiency. When he took office in 2011, he opened fire by killing a $400 million federal grant to restore passenger rail service between Cleveland, Columbus, Dayton and Cincinnati. Columbus is the largest capital city in the western world that people cannot get to by train. It also has no internal commuter rail, making it what some have called “the mid-sized town technology forgot.”

The Bravo Test and the Death and Life of the Global Ecosystem in the Early Anthropocene – Robert Jacobs

July 23, 2015

On March 1st 1954 the United States tested its first deliverable hydrogen bomb at Bikini Atoll in the Marshall Islands. The weapon yielded a force three times as large as its designers had planned or anticipated.1 The radioactive fallout cloud that resulted from the weapon would kill a fisherman located 100 km away, cause illness in hundreds and perhaps thousands of people across hundreds of miles, and contaminate entire atolls with high levels of radiation displacing residents most of whom have never been able to return to their homes. Slowly it would become evident that, while this weapon had been tested in the Marshall Islands, its detonation was a global event. People around the world were shocked by the devastation wrought by the American nuclear attacks on Hiroshima and Nagasaki near the end of World War Two. Single planes had delivered single bombs that destroyed whole cities and killed tens of thousands of people in less than a second. These attacks and the spectre of future nuclear attacks cast a dark shadow on the future of humankind. Less than ten years later both the United States and the Soviet Union had developed weapons that made these original nuclear weapons seem small.

Study: When Human Consumption Slows, Planet Earth Can Heal – Lauren McCauley

July 23, 2015

Despite the oft-repeated claim that the recent decline in U.S. carbon emissions was due to the so-called ‘fracking boom,’ new research published Tuesday shows that it was the dramatic fall in consumption during the Great Recession that deserves credit for this drop. As nations grapple with the best strategy for decreasing carbon emissions ahead of the upcoming United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) negotiations in Paris, the report, published in the journal Nature Communications, underscores the need for communities to transition away from an economy based on endless growth and towards a more renewable energy system to stem the growing climate crisis. Between 2007 and 2013, the United States—second only to China for the title of world’s top polluter—saw carbon emissions fall roughly 11 percent. As the researchers with the University of Maryland and the University of California at Irvine note, “This decline has been widely attributed to a shift from the use of coal to natural gas in U.S. electricity production. However, the factors driving the decline have not been quantitatively evaluated.” The study analyzed six possible sources for the change in fossil fuel emissions: population growth, consumption volume, the types of goods consumed, the labor and materials used

The Climate Crisis Is Starting to Create a Global Consciousness Shift – David Suzuki

July 20, 2015

When an assassin killed Archduke Franz Ferdinand of Austria in 1914, no one called it the start of the First World War. That happened years later, after the implications, consequences and scale of the response could be assessed. It’s often the way. That’s why historians are important; they put events in context. Similarly, I doubt anyone knew how our world would change after Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak built their first computer in Jobs’ parents’ garage in 1975. In 1988, when climate scientist James Hansen testified in Washington that human-caused global warming was kicking in, people might have been excused for failing to grasp the significance of his early warning. But there’s no excuse for humanity’s subsequent dismissal and denial of the reality of his statements and the deliberate, aggressive opposition to any action to reduce the threat. For years, environmentalists have called for an urgent response to runaway climate change. Evidence has poured in from around the world to corroborate Hansen’s conclusions, from melting glaciers, sea level rise and ocean acidification to increasingextreme weather events and changes in animal and plant behaviour and ranges. Read

World’s Largest Indoor Vertical Farm Breaks Ground in Newark, New Jersey – Lorraine Chow

July 20, 2015

Newark, New Jersey will soon be home to the largest indoor vertical farm in the world. The city just broke ground on the massive, 69,000-square-foot AeroFarms headquarters that’s capable of producing up to 2 million pounds of vegetables and herbs annually once it’s in full operation. The new $30 million complex dwarfs Japan’s (already impressive) 25,000-square-foot vertical indoor farm, which had been the world’s largest until now. Merging agriculture and the latest in technology, the AeroFarms system relies on LED lights, aeroponics (where plants basically grow in nutrient-rich mist) and climate control. Plants grow in stacked racks without sun, soil or pesticides. In the Bloomberg video below, AeroFarms CEO and co-founder David Rosenberg explains how conditions such as lighting, oxygen, carbon dioxide, temperature and pH balances can be optimized inside the farm to create the perfect growing environment. “If we’re talking about feeding a planet of 8 billion or 9 billion, we need a new paradigm of how we grow our food. This is it. This is the future,” Rosenberg said about the project. According to projections from the United Nations, the world’s population will reach 9.6 billion people by 2050, 86 percent of whom will live in cities that might be far-removed from traditional farms. For people who live

You call this stewardship of Earth? BY ALLEN ARMSTRONG AND IRIS SANGIOVANNI

July 20, 2015

This column is a collaboration between a retired engineer and a university student regarding our perceptions of climate change. Allen Armstrong: As a 75-year-old grandfather, I represent the latest generation responsible for the Earth as it is, to be passed down to Iris, a 20-year-old student, and, later, to the generation of my grandchildren. What sort of stewards have we been? What sort of Earth will we be leaving? When I was Iris’ age, in 1960, the average temperature of Earth was 1.5 degrees cooler than it is today. Carbon dioxide was 305 parts per million in the atmosphere; it’s now 400. Fossil fuel emissions are now three times as great. Sea level has risen 7 inches. THE FUTURE LOOMS The ocean has become more acidic, coral reefs are dying, we have overfished the oceans and our fertilizer runoff has created dead zones that didn’t exist when I was young. Glaciers are melting. Water supplies are threatened. Read

The California Drought Is Just the Beginning of Our National Water Emergency By Maude Barlow

July 20, 2015

The United Nations reports that we have 15 years to avert a full-blown water crisis and that, by 2030, demand for water will outstrip supply by 40 percent. Five hundred renowned scientists brought together by UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said that our collective abuse of water has caused the earth to enter a “new geologic age,” a “planetary transformation” akin to the retreat of the glaciers more than 11,000 years ago. Already, they reported, a majority of the world’s population lives within a 30-mile radius of water sources that are badly stressed or running out. For a long time, we in the Global North, especially North America and Europe, have seen the growing water crisis as an issue of the Global South. Certainly, the grim UN statistics on those without access to water and sanitation have referred mostly to poor countries in Africa, Latin America, and large parts of Asia. Heartbreaking images of children dying of waterborne disease have always seemed to come from the slums of Nairobi, Kolkata, or La Paz. Similarly, the worst stories of water pollution and shortages have originated in the densely populated areas of the South. But as this issue of The Nation shows us, the global

Boehner Blames California Drought On Obama BY JOE ROMM

July 20, 2015

House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) took to Facebook on Tuesday to recast California’s worst drought in 1200 years as a “man-made water shortage” — not worsened by climate change, but by President Obama himself. He also asserted that, in the midst of the historic Dust Bowl conditions, Americans still have a God-given right to green lawns. Boehner, of course, famously said in May that he is “not qualified to debate the science over climate change.” That just affirmed what was clear from his bizarre 2009 assertion: “The idea that carbon dioxide is a carcinogen that is harmful to our environment is almost comical.” But admitted scientific ignorance doesn’t slow the Speaker down. What has sparked his blinkered outrage this time is this photo he posted on Facebook: Read

EPA study whitewashes the effects of fracking By Philip Guelpa

July 13, 2015

The US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) released the final draft of a study last month on the effects on drinking water of fracking (high volume hydraulic fracturing for the extraction of oil and natural gas). The study had been requested by Congress in 2010. An earlier, 2004, EPA study had found that fracking had no adverse effect on drinking water. That conclusion was then used to exempt fracking from the Safe Drinking Water Act. Since then, there has been an accumulation of evidence that fracking has substantial negative consequences for a whole range of environmental and health concerns. The EPA study found no evidence that fracking has caused “widespread, systemic impacts on drinking water resources in the United States.” It goes on to say, however, that, under certain circumstances, wells can leak and cause local contamination of the water table. Energy industry representatives and political supporters of fracking have taken this as constituting a “clean bill of health” for the process, the use of which has expanded explosively over the last few decades. Fracking is now taking place across substantial portions of the US, from California to Pennsylvania and Texas to the Dakotas, bolstering the position of the US as

6 Ways to Reduce Your Electric Bill and Your Environmental Footprint By Reynard Loki

July 13, 2015

According to the latest figures [3] released by the U.S. Energy Information Agency (EIA), the average monthly residential electric bill is $111.08. The state with the lowest average bill is New Mexico ($76.56) and the highest is Hawaii ($190.36).   To see how your state ranks, click here [4]. How does your electricity usage impact the environment? Well, the less energy you consume, the less energy your energy provider needs to produce. And that means less global warming gases spewed into the atmosphere. “Using energy more efficiently through more efficient end-uses or through more efficient generation, such as combined heat and power, reduces the amount of fuel required to produce a unit of energy output andreduces the corresponding emissions of pollutants and greenhouse gases [5],” says the EPA. The amount of electricity we use is a major part of our personal environmental footprint: Almost 40 percent of the total energy that Americans consume is used to generate electricity. Moreover, of the four kinds of energy consumers tracked by the EIA, residential consumers account for the largest share at 37.4 percent — more than the commercial, industrial and transportation sectors. And in a country with a population of 319 million, every kilowatt counts. Clearly, our individual decisions
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