Sustainability

Category Archives: Climate Change

The ‘nightmare’ California flood more dangerous than a huge earthquake

California’s drought-to-deluge cycle can mask the dangers Mother Nature can have in store.

During one of the driest March-through-February time periods ever recorded in Southern California, an intense storm dumped so much rain on Montecito in January that mudflows slammed into entire rows of homes. Hundreds of homes were damaged or destroyed, and at least 21 people died.

It was a grim reminder that in a place so dry, sudden flooding can bring disaster.

Eighty years ago this month, epic storms over just six days caused widespread destruction across Southern California.

Rain fell as fast as 2 inches for a one-hour period. Wide swaths of the San Fernando Valley were inundated; floodwaters in the Los Angeles River mowed down bridges and pulled apart railroads.

Government officials responded with a major flood control campaign, building dams and deepening rivers and lining them with concrete to flush water out to sea before floodwaters could rise.

But even those protections have limits. And history shows there is precedent for even more devastation.

Several weeks of monumental storms would be all it would take to overwhelm California’s flood control system and cause widespread flooding and destruction.

http://www.latimes.com/la-me-california-flood-20180325-htmlstory.html

Buried, altered, silenced: 4 ways government climate information has changed since Trump took office

After Donald Trump won the presidential election, hundreds of volunteers around the U.S. came together to “rescue” federal data on climate change, thought to be at risk under the new administration. “Guerilla archivists,” including ourselves, gathered to archive federal websites and preserve scientific data.

But what has happened since? Did the data vanish?

As of one year later, there has been no great purge. Federal data sets related to environmental and climate science are still accessible in the same ways they were before Trump took office.

However, in many other instances, federal agencies have tampered with information about climate change. Across agency websites, documents have disappeared, web pages have vanished and language has shifted in ways that appear to reflect the policies of the new administration.

Two groups have been keeping a watchful eye on developments. We both belong to the Environmental Data Governance Initiative, the organization behind the data rescue events. The initiative now monitors tens of thousands of federal websites with the help of specialized tracking software. In January, the group published a report that describes sweeping changes to federal web resources.

https://theconversation.com/buried-altered-silenced-4-ways-government-climate-information-has-changed-since-trump-took-office-92323

How Do Big Oil Companies Talk about Climate Science? Four Takeaways from a Day in Court

In front of a standing room only courtroom audience, the case of The People of California vs. B.P. P.L.C. et al. took an important step forward yesterday. In this case, the cities of San Francisco and Oakland, CA, are aiming to hold five major fossil fuel companies responsible for climate damages, particularly with respect to sea level rise. In a federal court in San Francisco, the presiding Judge William Alsup had specifically asked both sides to present a “tutorial on climate science” and to address eight questions he had posed. So how did the big oil company defendants present their version of climate science? And how did it compare to the scientific consensus? Together with my UCS colleague Deborah Moore, Western States Senior Campaign Manager, I was lucky enough to get a seat in the courtroom. Here are four of our takeaways from the day:

1. Judge Alsup was highly engaged with the presenters from each side

How Do Big Oil Companies Talk about Climate Science? Four Takeaways from a Day in Court

 

How to Escape Reality in 10 Simple Steps

Both climate science denying scientists and regular scientists are sensitive to bias, everyone is. Because of this, scientific protocol has scrutiny built-in and it’s called peer-review. It isn’t bullet-proof, but scientists publishing peer reviewed work do have more bias checks in place than consultants who use their own blog posts as references, like Curry. From the 32 references in Curry’s testimony, twelve are her own texts, two of which were published on the website of the Global Warming Policy Foundation, a UK based think tank which aims to challenge the policies envisaged by governments to mitigate anthropogenic global warming. Cognitive bias does not make the majority of climate science research untrue, it does explain in part why people are still openly questioning the reality of anthropogenic global warming, we don’t want it to be true. Facts don’t move people, stories do, and stories of uncertainty work like a powerful anesthetic, paralyzing both the public as well as policy makers. There are several coping mechanisms that kick in when facing the overwhelming threat of global warming (Hamilton, 2010). One of them is distancing. When faced with a threat of such unfathomable proportions as global warming, people distance themselves from it. There is plenty of time to fix the problem. Optimism bias gives people the idea that bad things are less likely to happen to them. Self-serving bias leads to the interpretation of information that is most beneficial. Confirmation bias creates the tendency to interpret information in a way that confirms preconceptions. When presented with conflicting information, cognitive dissonance can lead to outright denial or dismissal of the facts. And that’s just the tip of the iceberg…

#1: Cherry pick data, focusing on the unexplained or anomalous cases

#5: Aggressively disseminate the facts you’ve manufactured

#10: Play the anti-progress card

https://bleu255.com/~marloes/txts/How_to_Escape_Reality_in_10_Simple_Steps/

Seabird poop warms the Earth, and cools it

Three new studies of how the world works show that seabird excrement plays an unexpected role, as do polar algae and rotting trees.

 

Three new studies of how the world works show that seabird excrement plays an unexpected role, as do polar algae and rotting trees.

 The world’s seabirds don’t just live off the land, they also nourish it: their excrement delivers 591,000 tons of nitrogen and 99,000 tons of phosphorus to feed plant communities in the soil and the water.

One polar plant community that happens to be flourishing is now to be found on the surface of Greenland’s icecap: green things are growing so well they are darkening the surface, which then reflects less light and absorbs more warmth. This algal darkening could be responsible for at least 5%, and possibly 10%, of the island’s total ice melt each summer.

And although the Arctic tundra wetlands are known to deliver between 16 and 27 million tons of methane to the atmosphere every year, they have unexpected competition in the natural greenhouse gas emission stakes.

Timelapse video: shipping first as LNG tanker crosses Arctic in winter without icebreaker escort

Teekay vessel Eduard Toll is designed to cut through ice and take advantage of the opening of Russia’s Arctic coastline to industry.

An LNG tanker designed for icy conditions has become the first commercial ship to travel the Arctic’s northern sea route in winter.

It marks a milestone in the opening up of Russia’s northern coastline, as thawing polar ice makes industrial development and maritime trade increasingly viable.

The Teekay vessel Eduard Toll set out from South Korea in December for Sabetta terminal in northern Russia, cutting through ice 1.8m thick. Last month, it completed the route, delivering a load of liquefied natural gas (LNG) to Montoir, France. Its voyage was captured by the crew in a timelapse video.

Timelapse video: shipping first as LNG tanker crosses Arctic in winter without icebreaker escort

Melting ice sheets are hastening sea level rise, satellite data confirms

Research shows that pace of melting in Antarctica and Greenland has accelerated.

Melting ice sheets in Greenland and Antarctica are speeding up the already fast pace of sea level rise, new satellite data shows.

At the current rate, the world’s oceans will be on average at least 60cm (2ft) higher by the end of the century, according to research published in Monday’s Proceedings of the National Academies of Sciences.

Based on 25 years of satellite data, however, the research shows that the pace has quickened. It confirms scientists’ computer simulations and is in line with predictions from the UN, which releases regular climate change reports.

https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2018/feb/13/melting-ice-sheets-are-hastening-sea-level-rise-satellite-data-confirms

A eureka moment for the planet: we’re finally planting trees again

After centuries of bad stewardship, communities are at last starting to see the benefits of forests.

China plans to plant forests the size of Ireland. Latin American countries have pledged to restore 20m hectares of degraded forest and African countries more than 100m hectares. India is to plant 13m hectares, and on a single day last year 1.5 million people planted 66m trees in Madhya Pradesh alone.

Much of Europe is physically greener than it was just a few years ago. England is to plant 50m trees in a new coast-to-coast forest and newly planted saplings now cover tens of thousands of hectares of former farmland in Ireland, Norway and France. From Costa Rica to Nepal and Peru to Mongolia, tree planting has become a political, economic and ecological cause, and a universal symbol of restoration, regrowth and faith in the future. More than 120 countries promised in 2015 to plant and restore large areas of forest as a response to the climate crisis, and the UN has set a target to restore 350m hectares by 2030 – an area bigger than India.

https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2018/feb/13/worlds-lost-forests-returning-trees

Media Ignoring Puerto Rico’s ‘Shock Doctrine’ Makeover

Nearly five months after Hurricane Maria struck Puerto Rico, more than a hundred thousand US citizens there still lack clean drinking water, and almost one-third of the island has no reliable electric power. As initial life-sustaining recovery efforts still grind toward completion, Puerto Rico’s Gov. Ricardo Rosselló has wasted no time using his territory’s recovery as an opportunity to push a number of policy proposals right out of the “disaster capitalism” playbook: from privatizing the island’s power utility to converting nearly all of its public schools to charters.

And while the mainstream US press has been mainly focused on the Trump administration’s woeful institutional response to the storm, it has barely noticed this much more radical political transformation of Puerto Rico, and the potentially disastrous long-term consequences for the citizens who live there.

Ever since Maria made landfall on September 20, the corporate press has been neglecting  the island in its coverage. Despite ranking second behind 2005’s Hurricane Katrina for property damage and lives lost, Maria has drawn markedly less media attention than the two major hurricanes that preceded it last summer. For example, according to a survey by the Tyndall Report, broadcast network evening news reports in 2017 devoted 30 percent less coverage to the aftermath of Maria than to Houston’s recovery from Hurricane Harvey. Likewise, Maria drew 12 percent less evening news coverage than Hurricane Irma’s devastation of Florida and the US Virgin Islands.

Media Ignoring Puerto Rico’s ‘Shock Doctrine’ Makeover

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