Let’s start treating climate change like the enemy

Carbon dioxide in the atmosphere is hovering at a landmark 400 parts per million, a level never before experienced by human beings. Scientists say we’re playing with fire, risking the planet’s future if we don’t start to lower the greenhouse gas levels forcing climate change. How should we react to this news? First, we need to envision climate change more accurately, as a deadly threat.

The top environmental story of 2011 — and probably 2012 too

If you’re wondering what to worry about in the coming year, look no further than the eco-landscape.
Climate change, species extinctions, ocean acidification, forestry losses, soil erosion and air pollution. We humans, now 7 billion strong, are pushing the planet hard, creating a brew of intractable environmental issues that threaten our way of life, and ultimately our survival.
Grim? It doesn’t get much more so.
There were bright moments in 2011. A sampling:

Arctic report card shows ‘profound changes,’ accelerated warming

The world’s frozen Arctic has reached a “new state” with less ice and a darker look that portends accelerating warming for the ice cap and the planet, according to a 2011 assessment by 121 international scientists.

This changing marine climate contains less ice and more open water. That has produced more plankton which helps feed whales — the single positive outcome noted in the report, but threatens the survival of marine mammals dependent upon the sea ice, like the polar bear and walrus.

350.org captures Earth’s woes and hopes from space

Climate action group 350.org wants us to see, really see, what’s happening as the result of climate change here on Earth.
So it’s taken to space to get a better view. Satellites began snapping photos of giant art installations, many involving humans forming pictures, last Friday and will continue through this week. The photos include one of a giant eagle in Los Angeles, created to represent the “Earth to Sky” solutions to climate change; a mural in New York City that shows how the area would look after the seas rise; a picture of a girl on a delta in Spain and a flash flood in New Mexico created by humans with blue posters.

Sodexo wants college students to quit wasting food


If you really ponder how spoiled Americans are, you’ll eventually have to consider how much food they spoil. It’s all around us, trash cans spilling over with fast food remnants; restaurants and cafeterias and household waste bins teeming in leftovers. The government estimates that Americans throw out about 25 percent of the food they prepare, or about 31 billion tons of food every year, according to the Environmental Protection Agency.

July 2010 was the second hottest since satellite records began

July 2010 was the second hottest July in the 32-year history of charting temperatures by satellite, according to preliminary records kept by the Earth System Science Center at the University of Alabama in Huntsville.
The global average temperature was only 0.03 C cooler than the record set in July 1998, said Dr. John Christy, professor of atmospheric science and director of the Earth System Science Center

State of the Climate in 2010: Hot

Congress debates it. Nations argue about how to address it. But its existence is “unmistakable” according to the 2009 State of the Climate report released Wednesday.

Global warming is happening.

State of the Climate, which drew on work by 300 scientists in 160 research groups in 48 countries, confirms that the past decade of 2000-2009 was the warmest on record, and that Earth has been growing warmer over the past 50 years.
The research groups looked at 10 indicators, and confirmed that seven are going up, making the world slightly, but significantly warmer.

Poll shows the public believes global warming IS happening

By Ruy Teixeira

Conservatives have done their best to promote the idea that global warming is not happening. And recently they have been pointing to some polls that purport to show increasing public skepticism about global warming. But new Roper data released by Stanford University show that the public, when asked a straightforward question about whether global warming “has probably been happening,” endorses the idea that global warming is real by an overwhelming 74-24 margin.

Apprehension, not celebration, greets this World Environment Day

Aurora, Colo., tornado (Photo: Brittany McKown)It’s World Environment Day, and all I can think about is how the Gulf oil disaster has been book-ended by two environmental commemorations. The BP oil well blew out two days before Earth Day in April, though it was barely covered in the news until a few days later when people realized that oil was leaking into the ocean unabated. (In the back of our minds, we tend to assume that someone has a plan for these contingencies. Surprise! No plan.)

Senator Lisa Murkowski, drilling away at environmental protections

Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska)
While some U.S. senators struggle to find a way forward on climate action, Senator Lisa Murkowski of Alaska has stepped into the fray to call for a time out.
Murkowski, in fact, has been in the fray for a while. And while she’s not alone — many others in Congress have said they’re more concerned about slowing government regulations than slowing climate change — she has recently distinguished herself as one of the strongest opponents of controls on carbon pollution.

Murkowski, a longtime, ardent supporter of oil drilling, has become more vocal in the past year in her efforts to keep industry free of strong environmental controls. In January, she proposed stripping the EPA of its ability to regulate greenhouse gases under the Clean Air Act. More recently, she’s lamented that the BP oil disaster has temporarily halted exploratory offshore drilling in the arctic planned by Shell Oil for this summer; a topic that even many conservative opponents of climate action have remained silent on in the face of the ongoing historic, despoiling of the gulf.

Global warming really will make you sick

Timothy grass (Photo: Mary Jelks, University of Tulsa)

Timothy grass (Photo: Mary Jelks, University of Tulsa)

Get ready to sneeze. There’s another study out showing that your seasonal allergies will worsen as carbon dioxide levels rise. This one, due to be published in the peer-reviewed Environmental Health Perspectives today (May 13) finds that increasing levels of CO2 in the air drive increased production of fungal spores, including some associated with allergies and asthma.

Google this: Carbon emissions for your city or town

By Barbara Kessler
Green Right Now

As we drive deeper into our Orwellian future ala Google, where you can practically peer into our uncle’s windows in Toledo via Google Earth, it makes complete sense that we should also be able to track how we’re corrupting the atmosphere.

Thus, today, you can view CO2 emissions, thanks to a new Google Earth application developed by Purdue University researchers and funded by NASA, the U.S. Department of Energy, the Purdue Showalter Trust and Indianapolis-based Knauf Insulation.

The interactive CO2 emissions map will mostly confirm what you already know – that it’s getting thick out there, especially in cities like Los Angeles, plagued by higher than average auto emissions, and Houston, afflicted with bad air from industrial processes like oil refining. This is readily apparent because the chart color codes carbon pollution from different sectors, such as aircraft, on road and off road transportation; commercial and industrial sources; electricity production and residential emissions.

Saving America with energy efficient homes, and better mortgages

By Diane Porter
Green Right Now

Architect Ed Mazria has a vision for buildings that would make them energy neutral or “net zero”, a point where they used so little energy that they could equal it with what they fed back to the electric grid. It’s called the 2030 Architecture plan. And it aims big.

So it’s little surprise that Mazria and colleagues have developed a sister plan addressing the current American economic crisis. It would create jobs. Cut energy use. Curb global warming emissions. Send business to banks. Revitalize the construction sector.

And, oh yeah, it would help people get better, lower interest mortgages.

Are you there President Obama? Congress?

When Obama spoke to the nation early in January about his plan to get the United States economy back on track – the American Recovery and Reinvestment Plan – he spoke of creating a “clean energy economy” by rebuilding troubled infrastructure and modernizing federal buildings and American homes.

Ho, ho — hold it, a Death Map?

By Barbara Kessler Green Right Now Need a break from all the seasonal cheer? Researchers at the University of South Carolina have delivered this for the holidays: a detailed “Death Map” showing the weather that’s likeliest to kill us in whatever part...

Virginia survey reveals public attitudes on global warming

By Barbara Kessler

Three in four Virginians believe that global warming has been occurred over the past four decades, according to an extensive survey of state opinions, released today by University of Virginia researchers.

A smaller percentage of the populace (39 percent) said that human activity “such as burning fossil fuels” is causing the phenomenon; 33 percent felt global warming was caused by a combination of human factors and natural trends; 20 percent attributed it to “natural patterns” and 8 percent reported they were “not sure” of the causes.

The survey of 660 Virginians, conducted by UV’s Miller Center of Public Affairs and released this week, was devised to better probe residents’ viewpoints on global warming, in light of the fact that states have “taken an unexpectedly central role” in forming climate change policy.

Many mammals at risk of extinction

By Barbara Kessler

Polar bears, penguins, pandas have become symbols of the fight to save wild places around the world and push back global warming.

According to conservationists meeting in Barcelona this week, they have a host of company. A broad assessment of the world’s mammals reveals an “extinction crisis” with nearly one-quarter of known mammal species at risk of disappearing forever due to habitat loss, pollution, global warming, over-hunting and food chain erosion.

The study, unveiled at the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) World Conservation Congress, shows that 1,141 (and possibly nearly 2,000) of the world’s 5,487 mammals are known to be threatened with extinction.

Cartoon contest satirizes government interference in scientific inquiry

By Barbara Kessler

And the winner of the Union of Concerned Scientist’s “Science Idol” cartoon contest is. . . Justin Bilicki, a senior art director at ad agency Avenue A/Razorfish, who lives in Brooklyn.

The contest, an annual event for the non-profit alliance of scientists, invited cartoonists to explore the challenges and political pressures that impede or distort scientific inquiry. Bilicki’s cartoon, clearly informed by the debate over climate change and global resource depletion, features a scientist in a lab coat with a poster that declares: RESEARCH CONCLUDES: WE ARE DESTROYING EARTH.

Two men in suits look on, and one, holding a briefcase overstuffed with money and labeled “Government” asks, “Could you kindly rephrase that in equivocal, inaccurate, vague, self-serving and roundabout terms that we can all understand?”