Posts Tagged ‘environment’
A new book by Geoffrey Heal, professor at Columbia Business School, makes a trenchant point that’s ignored by those currently in power: our prosperity depends on protecting the planet.
Heal did a Q&A interview about his book, Endangered Economies, in the current issue of the Union of Concerned Scientists’ magazine Catalyst. (Heal is also UCS board member and an expert on economics and the environment.)
“The natural world provides everything we depend on,” Heal says. “We get our food from the natural world, we get our drinking water and our oxygen from the natural world, and we evolved as part of it. We simply can’t live without it. Plants create food, and they need pollination from insects and they need rain and they need soil. We can’t synthesize these things. So we really are totally dependent on the natural world in the end. Read the rest of this entry »
The emerging Trump administration/cabal is taking shape, and it’s not looking good for the environment and climate change. What is emerging, for the most part, is a group of rich people in tune with the “president-elect’s” version of business intrusion, anti-regulation and crony capitalism.
With respect to the environment, and specifically the Environmental Protection Agency, DJT selected a puppet of the fossil fuel industry, Scott Pruitt, the Oklahoma attorney general, to head the EPA. According to the New York Times report on the nomination, it signals a “determination to dismantle President Obama’s efforts to counter climate change — and much of the EPA itself.” Pruitt is actually suing the EPA for its “regulatory overreach” in his oil and gas intensive state.
The transition team press release announcing Pruitt’s selection, (quoted in a Washington Post report) said, “For too long, the Environmental Protection Agency has spent taxpayer dollars on an out-of-control anti-energy agenda that has destroyed millions of jobs, while also undermining our incredible farmers and many other businesses and industries at every turn,” the release quoted Trump as saying. Pruitt “will reverse this trend and restore the EPA’s essential mission of keeping our air and our water clean and safe.” Trump added, “My administration “strongly believes in environmental protection, and Scott Pruitt will be a powerful advocate for that mission while promoting jobs, safety and opportunity.”
More evidence that we are in Orwellian 1984 territory. Get ready for four years of doublethink.
Michael Brune, Executive Director of the Sierra Club, said: “Having Scott Pruitt in charge of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is like putting an arsonist in charge of fighting fires. He is a climate science denier who, as Attorney General for the state of Oklahoma, regularly conspired with the fossil fuel industry to attack EPA protections. “Nothing less than our children’s health is at stake. Scott Pruitt, whose own bio describes him as ‘a leading advocate against the EPA’s activist agenda’ cannot be trusted to head the EPA, an agency charged with protecting all Americans from threats to their water, air, and health. We strongly urge Senators, who are elected to represent and protect the American people, to stand up for families across the nation and oppose this nomination.”
Senate Democrats have signaled they will fight this nomination—this could be an early battle, and test, for the Dems.
Image: Scott Pruitt by Gage Skidmore via Flickr CC
Get set for a rough ride on climate change policies and inactions under Trump. Actually it will be a full-on climate disaster, with all of the progress of the past eight years—which wasn’t all that great in any case, but at least were crucial steps in the right direction—almost certainly reversed, undone, scrapped.
This is what is likely to happen, post-Jan. 20, based on reporting by various news outlets including Newsweek, the New York Times, The New Yorker, and the statements from DJT:
During the campaign, DJT vowed to withdraw from the Paris treaty on climate change negotiated last year. He said he would remove regulations that curb carbon emissions and permit oil drilling and mining on federal lands in the seas. He would approve the Keystone XL pipeline, and weaken—a better word is eviscerate—the Environmental Protection Agency. Read the rest of this entry »
I don’t think we –by “we” I mean writers, journalists, editors, bloggers, etc.–understand the disaster facing the country with respect to many issues – most importantly (to me) on climate change, renewable energy, sustainability, the Supreme Court, free speech, civil and gender rights, corporate power and influence, democratic institutions and equal justice.
Here is what David Remnick wrote last week in The New Yorker: “The election of Donald Trump to the Presidency is nothing less than a tragedy for the American republic, a tragedy for the Constitution, and a triumph for the forces, at home and abroad, of nativism, authoritarianism, misogyny, and racism…It is impossible to react to this moment with anything less than revulsion and profound anxiety.”
In the early going Trump was a media novelty; he was “good copy,” as they say in newsrooms. He was not taken seriously until it became—too late—really serious, even deadly serious. Trump also tapped into a vein of discontent, anger and fear that was largely under-reported or ignored—again until it was too late.
So the reasoned and rational “what do we do now?” arguments and suggestions for going forward strike me as somewhat naive and not very useful because this is not a “business as usual” or “return to normalcy” situation. It’s not a rational and normal transfer of power, no matter how it is dressed up as such. This a new, different, uncertain, dangerous and even absurd universe—so new, different and radical thinking about the way we report and approach whatever horrors await us from the Trump/Pence cabal is needed. It means telling the truth with clarity and accuracy no matter how inconvenient or costly, both to ourselves and to the powerful.
Remnick concluded: “To combat authoritarianism, to call out lies, to struggle honorably and fiercely in the name of American ideals—that is what is left to do. That is all there is to do.”
That is what I promise to do. I hope you will join me.
Image: Donald Trump – Portrait by DonkeyHotey viaFlickr CC
While the national political discourse descends ever further into the gutter, the true crisis that must be addressed—climate change– is getting lost in the sleaze, ignorance and obfuscation.
McKibben puts it succinctly: “It’s not that global warming is like a world war. It is a world war. And we are losing.” Read the rest of this entry »
Here’s some news we already know or thought we knew. Yes, climate change is here and here to stay according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), and its effects are no longer subtle or easily argued away.
It makes for sobering reading, for example (quoting from the Abstract):
- “In 2015, the dominant greenhouse gases released into Earth’s atmosphere—carbon dioxide, methane, and nitrous oxide—all continued to reach new high levels. At Mauna Loa, Hawaii, the annual CO2 concentration increased by a record 3.1 ppm, exceeding 400 ppm for the first time on record. The 2015 global CO2 average neared this threshold, at 399.4 ppm.
- “Owing to the combination of El Niño and a long-term upward trend, Earth observed record warmth for the second consecutive year, with the 2015 annual global surface temperature surpassing the previous record by more than 0.1°C and exceeding the average for the mid- to late 19th century—commonly considered representative of preindustrial conditions—by more than 1°C for the first time.
- “Across land surfaces, record to near-record warmth was reported across every inhabited continent. Twelve countries, including Russia and China, reported record high annual temperatures.
- “In the Arctic, the 2015 land surface temperature was 1.2°C above the 1981–2010 average, tying 2007 and 2011 for the highest annual temperature and representing a 2.8°C increase since the record began in 1900. Increasing temperatures have led to decreasing Arctic sea ice extent and thickness. On 25 February 2015, the lowest maximum sea ice extent in the 37-year satellite record was observed, 7% below the 1981–2010 average.
- “Above average sea surface temperatures are not confined to the Arctic. Sea surface temperature for 2015 was record high at the global scale; however, the North Atlantic southeast of Greenland remained colder than average and colder than 2014…The Greenland Ice Sheet, with the capacity to contribute ~7 m to sea level rise, experienced melting over more than 50% of its surface for the first time since the record melt of 2012.
- “Springtime ozone depletion resulted in one of the largest and most persistent Antarctic ozone holes observed since the 1990s.
- “Closer to the equator, 101 named tropical storms were observed in 2015, well above the 1981–2010 average of 82. The eastern/central Pacific had 26 named storms, the most since 1992. The western north Pacific and north and south Indian Ocean basins also saw high activity. Globally, eight tropical cyclones reached the Saffir–Simpson Category 5 intensity level.
- “An above-normal rainy season led to major floods in Paraguay, Bolivia, and southern Brazil. In May, the United States recorded its all-time wettest month in its 121-year national record. Denmark and Norway reported their second and third wettest year on record, respectively, but globally soil moisture was below average, terrestrial groundwater storage was the lowest in the 14-year record, and areas in “severe” drought rose from 8% in 2014 to 14% in 2015. Drought conditions prevailed across many Caribbean island nations, Colombia, Venezuela, and northeast Brazil for most of the year. Several South Pacific countries also experienced drought. Lack of rainfall across Ethiopia led to its worst drought in decades and affected millions of people, while prolonged drought in South Africa severely affected agricultural production. Indian summer monsoon rainfall was just 86% of average. Extremely dry conditions in Indonesia resulted in intense and widespread fires during August–November that produced abundant carbonaceous aerosols, carbon monoxide, and ozone.”
Michael Mann, a leading climate scientist at Penn State, last month told the Guardian, “The impacts of climate change are no longer subtle. They are playing out before us, in real time. The 2015 numbers drive that home.”
More on the parlous state of the climate, and what we are not doing about it, next time.
Image: State of the Climate in 2015 cover from the AMS website.
Now this from Harvard University researchers: “bionic leaf 2.0,” which turns sunlight into liquid fuel, introduced in the academic journal Science earlier this month.
In what is called an artificial version of photosynthesis in plants, the study says the “bionic leaf 2.0” “aims to make use of solar panels for splitting molecules of water into oxygen and hydrogen. On separation of the water compounds, hydrogen is moved into a chamber for consumption by bacteria. A specialized metal catalyst and carbon dioxide in the chamber then helps generate a liquid fuel.”
Daniel Nocera, the Patterson Rockwood Professor of Energy at Harvard University, and Pamela Silver, the Elliott T. and Onie H. Adams Professor of Biochemistry and Systems Biology at Harvard Medical School, have developed a system that uses solar energy to split water molecules and hydrogen-eating bacteria to produce liquid fuels. What’s cool about this is that using sunlight to convert it into liquid fuels would reduce the vast areas of land usually used for producing plants that generate biofuels. According to a study by the University of Virginia, about 4 per cent of the world’s farmland is currently under crops for fuel rather than crops for food.
The paper, whose lead authors also include postdoctoral fellow Chong Liu and graduate student Brendan Colón, is described in a June 3 paper published in Science.
“This is a true artificial photosynthesis system,” Nocera said in a Harvard Gazette article. “Before, people were using artificial photosynthesis for water-splitting, but this is a true A-to-Z system, and we’ve gone well over the efficiency of photosynthesis in nature.” While the study shows the system can be used to generate usable fuels, its potential doesn’t end there, said Silver, who is also a founding core member of the Wyss Institute at Harvard University.
“The beauty of biology is it’s the world’s greatest chemist — biology can do chemistry we can’t do easily,” she said. “In principle, we have a platform that can make any downstream carbon-based molecule. So this has the potential to be incredibly versatile.”
The new system builds on previous work by Nocera, Silver, and others, which — though it was capable of using solar energy to make isopropanol — faced a number of challenges. Chief among those, Nocera said, was the fact that the catalyst used to produce hydrogen — a nickel-molybdenum-zinc alloy — also created reactive oxygen species, molecules that attacked and destroyed the bacteria’s DNA. To avoid that, researchers were forced to run the system at abnormally high voltages, resulting in reduced efficiency.
“For this paper, we designed a new cobalt-phosphorous alloy catalyst, which we showed does not make reactive oxygen species,” Nocera said. “That allowed us to lower the voltage, and that led to a dramatic increase in efficiency.” Read the rest of this entry »