Nel's New Day

December 12, 2015

GOP Tries to Destroy Planet

PARIS, FRANCE - NOVEMBER 29:  An artwork entitled 'One Heart One Tree' by artist Naziha Mestaoui is displayed on the Eiffel tower covered by a green visual forest, as part of the organisation of the Conference on Climate Change COP21 on November 29 in Paris, France. The climate change conference COP21 will gather 193 countries in Paris from November 30 to December 11, 2015.  (Photo by Chesnot/Getty Images)

PARIS, FRANCE – NOVEMBER 29: An artwork entitled ‘One Heart One Tree’ by artist Naziha Mestaoui is displayed on the Eiffel tower covered by a green visual forest, as part of the organisation of the Conference on Climate Change COP21 on November 29 in Paris, France. The climate change conference COP21 will gather 193 countries in Paris from November 30 to December 11, 2015. (Photo by Chesnot/Getty Images)

On the same day that 24 Democrats in the House joined all the Republicans in passing a bill to block trade deals from cutting greenhouse emissions, 186 countries signed off on the Paris agreement to leave most of the world’s fossil fuels unburned to save the planet. The countries unanimously agreed to an ongoing effort of increasingly deeper emissions reductions aimed at keeping total warming “to well below 2°C [3.6°F] above preindustrial levels.” After two weeks of negotiations, parties to the agreement also promise “to pursue efforts to limit the temperature increase to 1.5°C above preindustrial levels, recognizing that this would significantly reduce the risks and impacts of climate change.” In addition, the agreement calls for developed countries to raise at least $100 billion annually in order to assist developing countries that suffer irreparable damage from climate change but have done little to cause it.

The treaty was adopted by “consensus” and won’t go into effect until 55 countries ratify or approve it. The agreement calls for a signature ceremony in April 2016 and asks that the U.N. Secretary-General keep the agreement open for signing until April 2017.Two important countries are China and the U.S. which respectively account for 24 percent and 14 percent of total greenhouse gas emissions. Two-thirds of the U.S. Senate must sign off on a treaty before it can be ratified.

This agreement follows grassroots’ movements to protest Keystone XL pipeline, persuade institutions and individuals to disinvest in dirty energy while moving capital to cleaner energy, and push for a warming target of below 2 degrees Celsius (3.6 degrees Fahrenheit). This change will require every country to have zero net fossil fuel emissions by the end of the 21st century. As the graph indicates, global CO2 emissions have started to plateau.

Global Greenhouse Gas Emissions

Why all countries need to cooperate in saving the planet:

Temperatures in the Arctic are rising at twice the rate as the rest of the world which may cause one-fourth of Alaska’s permafrost to melt. Until the recent climate warming, the frozen soil has locked in over a trillion tons of carbon, more than twice as much carbon as in the atmosphere itself. The melting permafrost will boost CO2 levels higher in a feedback loop, causing rising seas, greater and more prolonged heat waves and droughts, and distorted weather patterns to thaw more permafrost and release even more CO2.

A major Greenland glacier in Greenland holding enough water to raise global sea levels by 20 inches is crumbling into the North Atlantic Ocean. From 2002 to 2014 the area of the glacier’s floating shelf shrank by 95 percent; it’s now losing 4.5 billion tons of ice a year. Rising air temperatures drive melting at the top of the glacier, and warming ocean currents erode the underside.

The historic Tangier Island off the Virginia coast just 90 miles from Washington, DC is disappearing. Inhabited for thousands of years, the three-mile-long island has lost over 65 percent of its landmass since 1850; at this rate of sea level rising, the island has 50 years left.

Parts of Louisiana are also disappearing into the Gulf Coast. This video shows how a football field of land is lost to rising sea levels every hour.

People may not be upset to lose Wall Street to sea levels rising (below), but these maps show all the displaced places. You may not want these to be lost to the oceans.

 

Wall Street 2wallstreet_4C_C

 

 

 

 

 

 

Researchers from more than 20 countries found that half of 28 weather extremes on all seven continents were influenced by climate change: 

  • Record heat in Europe, the Korean peninsula, northern China, and Australia.
  • Droughts in Syria and East Africa.
  • Record rains in New Zealand and France.
  •  Nepal’s extreme Himalayan snowstorm.
  • Flooding in southeastern Canada.
  • Hurricanes in Hawaii.
  • Hotter Pacific and Atlantic sea-surface temperatures.

Even the fossil fuel giant Exxon-Mobil publicly admits that “with no government action…average temperatures are likely to rise by 5 degrees Celsius, with rises of 6, 7 or even more quite possible.” After trying to cover up its part in climate change for the past 30 years,  the company openly states that emissions can’t be controlled by “free-market-driven solutions.” Exxon also endorses a comprehensive carbon tax, similar to the one proposed by Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT), a Democratic presidential candidate.

Six years ago, a climate summit in Copenhagen failed to produce any results. Now, the United States GOP is “exceptional” in being the only major political party opposed to reversing the devastating climate warming despite that warning signs. Last year was the hottest year on record. Despite the panic and disdain shown by Republicans, the Paris agreement, unlike the 1997 Kyoto Protocol, will not be a fully legally binding treaty which would almost positively fail in the current GOP-controlled Congress. The United States never ratified the Kyoto Protocol.

Before the meetings in Paris, Republicans tried hard to scuttle the whole agreement by reaching out to foreign officials. Like Sen. Tom Cotton (R-AR) and his work to undermine the agreement with Iran, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) challenged the right of the president to agree to a global agreement without permission from the Senate. McConnell’s energy aide Neil Chatterjee led Senate staff in telling foreign embassy representatives that the GOP will do everything they can to battle the climate agenda and that any agreement would not hold up with a Republican president. More about the GOP treasonous actions here.

U.S. ratification is highly unlikely (a serious understatement) because conservatives’ allegiance to the coal and oil industry, especially billionaires such as the Koch brothers, commit the GOP to block any efforts to protect the world. In the past, the GOP refused to enact policies to reverse climate change with the claim that no other country will follow the U.S.; now the GOP, now the majority party of Congress, is making the United States one of the countries refusing to take steps to save the planet.

The Paris agreement will shift trillions of dollars in capital investment away from conservative sugar daddies into cleaner technologies such as solar, wind, LED lighting, advanced batteries, and electric cars that emit far less harmful carbon pollution. The reverse in policy, however, will not completely stop existing impacts of climate change such as sea level rise, ocean acidification, extreme weather, and loss of agricultural lands similar to that of the 1930s Dust Bowl.

The deal is flawed—no timeline, voluntary controls on gas emission goals, and weak language on monitoring and verifying, for example. But it’s a beginning, a vital beginning. Unchecked climate change will adversely affect billions of people around the globe, threatening water and food supplies, development goals, public health and arable and habitable land.

Disasters are not confined to just the soon-to-be submerged island nation of Kiribati or the Maldive people losing 77 percent of their land by 2100. No one will be untouched by climate change: it has already caused the increasing conflicts in the Middle East that the GOP is using as collateral against the Democrats, the acceleration in ethnic violence, and the displacement of people creating havoc in the world.

A 2009 report called climate change the “biggest global-health threat of the 21st century,” causing foot shortages and deadly diseases. President Obama said, “Denying [climate change], or refusing to deal with it endangers our national security. It undermines the readiness of our forces.”  Presidential candidate Sanders calls climate change the greatest threat to national security. While the media concentrates on one of almost 400 mass shootings this year, the GOP is trying to kill the planet by denying science.

December 17, 2014

Don’t Frack in New York

In a first for the country, New York has tentatively banned hydraulic fracturing—better known as fracking—because of health risks. State officials concluded that the method of extracting natural gas contaminates air and water. Fracking uses water and chemicals to obtain the gas in deeply buried shale deposits. Former Gov. David Paterson issued a moratorium in 2008 which Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo continued after he took office in 2011. Dozens of local governments have legally banned fracking through land use regulations, according to a state Supreme Court decision last summer.

Acting state health commissioner, Dr. Howard A. Zucker, said the review came down to one question: Would he want to live in a community that allowed fracking? His answer was no. Fracking supporters claim that the practice contributes to local economies, particularly in the huge Marcellus Shale that spreads across New York, Pennsylvania, and West Virginia. Opponents worried about the state’s watersheds and aquifers as well as tourism and quality of life in upstate communities.

One person well aware of fracking problems is Louis W. Allstadt, a retired executive vice president of Mobil oil. He ran the company’s exploration and production operations in the western hemisphere before he retired in 2000 and was also in charge of its marketing and refining in Japan, and managed its worldwide supply, trading and transportation operations for 31 year. In addition, he oversaw Mobil’s side of its merger with Exxon, creating the world’s largest corporation. An interview with him is here.

New studies examining the health effects of fracking indicate that this research is relatively new. The Compendium of Scientific, Medical and Media Findings Demonstrating Risks and Harms of Fracking by the Concerned Health Professionals of NY examines the results of many studies for its conclusions regarding potential harm from fracking and reports:

“A significant body of evidence has emerged to demonstrate that these activities are inherently dangerous to people and their communities. Risks include adverse impacts on water, air, agriculture, public health and safety, property values, climate stability and economic vitality.”

Fortunately, the study has found a great increase in recent research, possibly one daily for the past two years, and plans to update its compendium every six months. In encouraging Cuomo to ban fracking, Dr. Larysa Dyrszka said:

“The longer we look at fracking, the more trouble we find. There is no split debate within the scientific literature.”

People who think that fracking makes landowners wealthy need to look at farmers in Pennsylvania. People who owned a great deal of land and sold at exactly the right time may have profited, but everyone else has lost, because of unexpected costs or water contamination. A member of the Bradford County Planning Commission has three shale gas wells on his land, but signing the lease meant costs for setting up an LLC ($22,000), pre-drilling water testing ($14,500), and the loss of a tax credit for farmland which raised the assessment per acre from $500 per acre to a commercial property assessment of $2,500 with taxes due retroactively. After a division of Chesapeake Energy deducted costs from his royalties, the man was paid $0.10 for the gas produced on his 359-acre farm. State law requires a minimum of 12.5 percent of the gas value produced on the land in royalties, but a 2010 state Supreme Court ruling opened a loophole allowing a diversity of costs, many times retroactive.

Another man, whose girlfriend signed a lease, cannot use the contaminated water from the well on his property. He said his first check was about $3,000 which quickly dropped to $58. The royalties have stopped because contamination forced the wells to be cut off.

In addressing the questions of economy, Deborah Goldberg, managing attorney for Earthjustice, described the negative economic impacts on communities. The boom-and-bust result of temporary industries produces growth only in “burger flipping, trailer parks, drugs and prostitution.” Meanwhile, dairy farmers and carpentry workers in Pennsylvania were negatively impacted through livestock death from toxin exposures and lumber becoming a rare commodity after it was used to fill well packs. When the oil and gas industry disappears, nothing of the former economy is left.

The failure of wells to be profitable might support a new bill to ban fracking on publicly owned lands. Reps. Mark Pocan (D-WI) and Jan Schakowsky (D-IL) are trying to preserve lands preserved for recreation, tourism, history, and culture. Currently, 90 percent federally managed lands are available for oil and gas leasing, including fracking, with just 10 percent protected exclusively for conservation, recreation, wildlife and cultural heritage. Oil and gas companies already have leased over 36 million acres of public land and want to use another 12 million acres in national forests and land adjoining national parks.

Unfortunately, the $1.1 trillion spending bill includes a provision to streamline permitting for fracking on U.S. public lands overseen by the Bureau of Land Management (BLM), a unit of the US Department of Interior. The BLM has failed to inspect more than half of the so-called “high priority” wells, which required more attention to prevent water and environmental contamination.

Abandoned wells are leaking huge amounts of methane, a greenhouse gas that is 86 times more effective in trapping heat than CO2 and responsible for about 25 percent of human-created global warming. Two new studies show that unreported methane is leaking from millions of unused oil and gas wells throughout the nation. Of 19 abandoned wells investigated in northwestern Pennsylvania, all leaking methane, the Princeton University study reported that only one is on the state’s list of abandoned wells. Three of the wells emitted methane at thousands of times the levels of the other 16. A University of Texas study showed that 20 percent of the investigated sites emitted far more than the rest. The U.S. has no system to monitor wells to see which ones emit the high levels or to determine what should be done with those that are.

Last summer, California officials shut down 11 oil and gas waste injection sites and ordered a review more than 100 others in the agricultural Central Valley for fear that companies were pumping fracking fluids and other toxic waste into drinking water aquifers. The state has protected only a fraction of the waters that the federal Safe Drinking Water Act requires. Although California has been hit with a number of storms bringing water to the drought-ridden area, the rainfall doesn’t even put a dent in the state’s drought problems.

San Benito County, one of the smallest counties in California, managed to pass an anti-fracking ordinance with only $130,000 against oil companies that spent $2 million opposing the initiative. Mendocino and Santa Cruz counties, Santa Barbara, and Los Angeles had already passed fracking bans. Bully oil isn’t through: they’re suing the San Benito County for $1.2 billion because of the company’s claim that they are entitled to frack under the agricultural ground, destroying the agritourism future of wineries, organic farms and small inns.

In another victory for protecting the planet, President Obama withdrew Alaska’s Bristol Bay from future oil and gas drilling. Its fishing industry generates $2 billion per year by providing 40 percent of the wild-caught fish in the United States. One of the world’s largest wild salmon runs in the bay annually provides $100 million in tourism, and the location is home to many endangered species including orcas and beluga and the North Pacific right whale. A decision on a bigger threat to the bay, the huge proposed gold and copper Pebble Mine, is still pending. [Popular culture junkies will know that Bristol Bay is the namesake of Sarah Palin’s daughter.]

New York’s ruling is hopefully just the tip of the iceberg in stopping indiscriminate pollution of the United States through fracking. San Benito County may have only 57,000 residents, but New York state has almost 20 million—and a lot more money if the fracking industry decides to sue them.

October 1, 2014

Advice for Climate Deniers

Filed under: Climate change — trp2011 @ 10:06 PM
Tags: , , ,

People who live elsewhere in the world sometimes tend to think that people in the Northwest are pretty wacko. Fairly liberal politics, environmentally concerned, bicycle-riding, etc. With climate change—that many of us who live here believe—this area may be the only safe place left in the United States. The following map shows the issues that the rests of the country will have.

USmap1slrheatwavewithhurricanesheatwave

Red: Vulnerable low-lying coastal areas as sea-level rises 1-2 feet during the next 85 years.

Yellow: Less water availability for agriculture and other uses by 2015 as the Southwest gets less precipitation and rising temperatures cause increasing evaporation.

Orange: Worsening intensive hurricanes that also cause increased storm surge damage along the coast and heavy precipitation/flooding in the interior.

Purple: Killer heat waves as the continent interior heats up.

Green dots: Increased flowing near major rivers draining western mountains.

Conclusions about the Northwest:

  • Temperatures will rise more slowly than most of the nation due to the Pacific Ocean (see below)
  • We will have plenty of precipitation, although the amount falling as snow will decline (will fall as rain instead). But we can deal with that by building more reservoir and dam capacity (and some folks on the eastern slopes of the Cascades have proposed to do exactly that).
  • The Pacific Ocean will keep heat waves in check and we don’t get hurricanes.
  • Sea level rise is less of a problem for us due to our substantial terrain and the general elevation rise of our shorelines. Furthermore, some of our land is actually RISING relatively to the sea level because we are still recovering from the last ice age (the heavy ice sheets pushed the land down and now it is still rebounding).
  • There is no indication that our major storms…cyclone-based winds (like the Columbus Day Storm)… will increase under global warming.
  • Increased precipitation may produce more flooding, but that will be limited to river valleys and can be planned for with better river management and zoning.

Although 97 percent of the scientists believe in human-created climate change, only 3 percent of Republicans in Congress believe this—an exactly reverse statistics. Of the general population, 37 percent deny human-made climate change. In order to maintain their fantasies, Ted Alvarez has developed different reasons for the colors in the map above.

Red: Places where candy will grow on trees because of adaptation. The orange groves of Florida will become chocolate groves and migrate up the coast.

Yellow: Areas where state and local governments are more likely to enforce three-day work weeks.

Orange: Christmas every day—although they will be wetter, windier, and more hurricaney.

Purple: Great cellphone coverage with no more dropped calls—blazing-fast downloads except in underground bunkers and heat hovels.

Green dots: Awful floods that should be avoided.

Advice from Alvarez: “STAY AWAY FROM THE WHITE AREAS…. These people lord over newcomers with weird cherries, fresh seafood, and nuclear coffee. The bookstores make your feet hurt. You’ll never be dry again. At least 85 of their 2,675 beers are too hoppy. They play Nirvana in the Seattle airport every. damn. day. Animals.

As someone who lives in the Northwest, I say, Follow Ted’s advice! Especially the 97 percent of the Republicans in Congress.

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