Environment

The 'Madhouse Effect' of climate denial in America

Jan 15, 2017
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<a href="https://www.flickr.com/photos/davidstanleytravel/16298322411/">David Stanley</a>/<a href="https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/">CC BY 2.0</a>. Image cropped.

2016 is a wrap — and with it, likely the hottest year ever recorded. Temperatures weren’t the only anomaly: Louisiana, for instance, saw floods so severe they should only happen every 1,000 years.

New York's $18.8 million Riverway project will be completed this summer after the discovery of contaminants in soil nearby delayed work for several months.

Millennials are the new 'fossil fuel freedom fighters'

Jan 7, 2017
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John Silvercloud/Flickr

A new generation of nature writers is coming of age in America. They are beginning to understand how much of the pristine landscape their parents and grandparents enjoyed is now gone.

High levels of "fine particulate matter" (PM2.5) in the air — such as in haze or smog — can lower the stock market, a research team at Columbia University has found.

When particle pollution rises, the market goes down by small but measurable amounts, says team leader Matthew Neidell, an associate professor at Columbia University.

At the end of November, hundreds of firefighters from all over the country battled the Rock Mountain Fire in North Georgia. Fighting the huge blaze in the tinder dry hills was a tough battle, but when it came time to rest, the firefighters, well-accustomed to makeshift lodgings, were offered an unusual, yet comfortable upgrade: a local Conservative Jewish camp.

With unsustainable fishing affecting about 30 percent of the ocean’s wild fish populations and most of the rest already fished to the limit, aquaculture is playing an ever bigger role in putting fish on the dinner table. 

Today, fish farms are the fastest-growing source of animal protein — on the rise, globally, at about 5 percent a year. 

Some advice for starting your own backyard 'carbon farm'

Dec 27, 2016

For visitors to Eric Toensmeier’s home in Holyoke, Massachusetts, the lush, 8-foot banana plant in the front yard is the first indication that something is unusual about his landscaping.

A walk around his stucco-covered house confirms it. In the back garden, about 300 species of perennials are thriving on just one-tenth of an acre: Raspberries, mountain mint, bamboo and bush clover all jostle for space alongside persimmon, chestnut and mulberry trees.

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Thomas Friedman's latest book, "Thank You For Being Late: An Optimist’s Guide to Thriving In the Age Of Accelerations," is a manifesto for how to cope with our changing planet.

Right now, three powerful forces — technology, globalization and climate change — are accelerating exponentially — and “one of the hardest things for the human mind to grasp is the power of an exponential,” says the columnist for the New York Times. 

The holiday season can be a happy time for many. But it may cause trouble for the environment.


Overfishing, plastic pollution, warming temperatures and other impacts of human activities are changing the oceans — resulting in decreasing populations of everything from tuna to whales to dolphins. But humans are also causing one class of sea life to thrive: jellyfish. 

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Penn State/Flickr

A planned industrial facility near Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, is expected to create thousands of construction jobs and up to 600 permanent ones. It is also forecast to increase air pollution in a region already falling short of federal clean air standards.

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To keep promises made at the Paris climate summit, Canada is rolling out a master plan to deal with climate change — including a phaseout of coal by 2030 and a phase in of carbon pricing by 2019.

At a meeting Dec. 9 in Ottawa, all of Canada’s provinces, save Saskatchewan and Manitoba, agreed to participate in a national carbon pricing program.

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<a href="https://www.flickr.com/photos/departmentofenergy/7795441040/">Energy.gov</a>. Image cropped.

The Bureau of Land Management announced a new regulation in November, changing how public lands are leased for solar and wind energy development. The rule incentivizes leases on lands that aren’t needed for conservation, and is intended to make financing easier for renewable energy development.

Joel Ulrich / National Public Radio

Two years ago, the state banned hydrofracking of natural gas within the state’s borders. However, a group of Cornell scientists who study the effects of climate change say New Yorkers are using more natural gas than ever.

U.S. Army Corps of Engineers

It has been more than 70 years since the end of World War II, but that does not mean debris of the war's industrial production has gone away.

As the Standing Rock Sioux celebrate halting, for now at least, the construction of the Dakota Access Pipeline, another Native American nation is also seeing a victory regarding its holy lands.

The federal government has now canceled 15 oil and gas leases on land revered by the Blackfeet Nation. The Badger-Two Medicine area includes 168,000 acres in Montana, southwest of the Blackfeet reservation and to the south of Glacier National Park. 

WBFO File Photo

With the dramatic drop in pollution coming out of the Tonawanda Coke plant because of repairs and renovations, the expectation was fewer contaminants in the neighborhood. However, state air monitors are finding that is not quite true.

Atmospheric carbon dioxide levels have risen sharply since the start of the Industrial Age — from 270 parts per million (ppm) in the late 1700s to some 400 ppm in January 2015 — and scientists say that's warming the Earth at a dangerous rate. 

While discussions about climate change usually center on reducing greenhouse gas emissions, Eric Toensmeier is focused on the other side of the equation: how to capture the carbon dioxide that's already in the atmosphere. 

And he thinks the answer might be in his backyard garden.

WBFO File Photo

The air coming off the Tonawanda Coke plant is considerably cleaner than it was. That was the message two state officials delivered to a public meeting in the Town of Tonawanda Tuesday night.

Deep in an icy mountain not far from the north pole are rows upon rows of boxes filled with seeds — nearly a million samples gathered from the seed collections of nations around the globe.

The Army Corps of Engineers has denied a permit for the construction of a key section of the Dakota Access Pipeline, granting a major victory to protesters who have been demonstrating for months.

The decision essentially halts the construction of the 1,172-mile oil pipeline just north of the Standing Rock Sioux Reservation. Thousands of demonstrators from across the country had flocked to North Dakota in protest.

US President-elect Donald Trump campaigned on a promise to “rip up” the Paris climate agreement. But at the first official meeting of the parties to the agreement, other nations expressed their determination to implement the deal and to continue their work on climate protection, even if the US withdraws.

Trump’s rejection of the Paris Agreement has generated “an unprecedented sense of solidarity among all the countries,” says Alden Meyer, director of strategy and policy for the Union of Concerned Scientists.

Anti-poaching efforts may get a boost from a DNA database for rhino horn

Nov 27, 2016
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gmacfadyen/Flickr

Of the world’s endangered animal species, none faces a more dire situation than rhinos. With just 25,000 or so rhinos left in in the world, the threat of extinction looms large.

But now an international database that keeps track of 75 percent of them may offer some hope.

South African law requires that a tissue sample be collected any time a rhino is moved from one park to another or receives medical care. The sample is used to create a DNA profile for each animal that can be recorded and, in case the animal is ever poached, matched to confiscated rhino horn.

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Reuters/James Akena

International negotiators have reached a landmark agreement to phase out the manufacture and use of heat-trapping chemical coolants known as hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs).

In 1987, under the Montreal Protocol, nations agreed to replace chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs) with hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs), when scientists found that CFCs were destroying the ozone layer that shields Earth from cancer-causing ultraviolet radiation.

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&nbsp;Cloudtail the Snow Leopard/Flickr&nbsp;

A new report from the World Wildlife Fund and the Zoological Society of London says global wildlife populations have declined by almost 60 percent since the 1970s — and the losses continue.

The two organizations jointly release a biennial Living Planet report that assesses how the natural world is coping with the stress of rising human population. The outlook for the world’s wildlife is grim, according to Colby Loucks, the senior director of the Wildlife Conservation Program for WWF.

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Gage Skidmore/Flickr

Starting in January 2017, Republicans will control the White House and both branches of Congress, which suggests a vastly different outlook for the US on issues related to the environment, global warming and energy.

Based on the promises President-elect Donald Trump made on the campaign trail, “advocates of clean energy and strong environmental protection have almost nothing to cheer about,” says Peter Dykstra of DailyClimate.org and Environmental Health News.

As the story goes, Native Americans — specifically, Algonquins — introduced the Pilgrims to the cranberry at Plymouth, Massachusetts. Nowadays, the tart, bright red fruit holds an honored place at the traditional American Thanksgiving feast.

Few cranberry growers have come to the modern organic movement, however. A rare exception is the popular 140-year-old Ruesch Century Farm near Vesper, Wisconsin, which advertises itself as “the world’s smallest organic cranberry bog.”

International negotiators have established the world’s largest "marine protected area" off the coast of West Antarctica. It is the first of its kind to be established in international waters.

The BagShare Project offers a creative and simple solution to the global problem of plastic bags: sewing and sharing handmade, reusable bags from scrap materials.

The project is the brainchild of Leni Fried, an artist from Cummington, Massachesetts. She began BagShare in 2007, and since then, she estimates, volunteers have made about 15,000 bags at community sewing events. Bags are donated to local stores, where customers can borrow them — instead of using disposable bags.

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