Hurricane Sandy and climate change: A scientist answers common questions

As Hurricane Sandy approached Virginia Beach, I watched churning surf form a troublesome backdrop to two skateboarders harnessing the wind to propel themselves rapidly along the boardwalk. Those same winds were piling up water to form a dangerous storm surge and portended a powerful blow that would ultimately cause widespread devastation throughout the region. Since that moment, I have been asked many questions about Hurricane Sandy. Here are answers to the most common ones.

Salina, Kansas got ‘cooler and smarter’ — and you can too

You may feel that your hands are simply too full with work or raising your kids to get into the “saving the planet” business. If you are curious enough to look through Cooler Smarter, though, you will still find valuable information. Many of the choices offered in the book won’t just lower your emissions of carbon dioxide; they can also improve the quality of your life, save you money and time, and even improve your health.

Was Nashville flooding spurred by global warming?

From Green Right Now Reports

Seeing the pictures of the flooding in Nashville this past week may have reminded you of other recent U.S. floods — in Fargo, Iowa City and the Mississippi River Valley.

Nashville Flooding, May 2010 (Photo: ABC News)

Nashville Flooding, May 2010 (Photo: ABC News)

And if you keep up with global warming, you may be wondering if this trend isn’t proving what scientists have been telling us about extreme rain events growing more severe and more frequent under climate change.

That question certainly came up in Nashville, according Rich Hayes, deputy communications director at the Union of Concern Scientists and a Nashville resident.

Union of Concerned Scientists raises questions about genetically modified corn for biofuel

By Barbara Kessler
Green Right Now

Corn-based ethanol, once a star on the alternative energy scene, has fallen from favor in the past year, battered by reports that raising corn for fuel raids the world’s pantry and that corn ethanol has a heavier carbon footprint than originally thought.

Many now argue over whether the US should continue to grow corn for fuel or make the switch to grasses that can be grown on less desirable land, with fewer pesticides and fertilizers, or use plant waste to make fuel.

Now a new debate looms: Should the US allow genetically altered corn to be grown for use as biofuel?

The Union of Concerned Scientists wants to stop that genie before it leaves the bottle, because it believes that genetically modified corn will inevitably mix with and contaminate corn grown for food products.

Automakers bailout should carry improved gas mileage requirements

By Barbara Kessler
Green Right Now

Remember when Congress passed legislation one year ago raising the bar on gas mileage? The law they passed required automakers to have a fleet average of 35 mpg by 2020.

Automakers, not just the U.S. Big Three, but Toyota as well, opposed it. They spent millions lobbying against the law, and to find out just how much they spent and whose wheels they tried to grease, see the Huffington Post story Big Three Promise Green Future But Spent Almost $50 Million Since 2007 Lobbying Against It
which dug out the actual dollar figures. (Just as good as the story are some of the bloggers responding, who have some interesting ideas for how to rescue the car industry.)

Western climate initiative sets emissions targets

By Barbara Kessler

While the world waits for Washington to act on one looming crisis – the Wall Street mortgage debacle – states in the Western U.S. acted today on another crisis, announcing a plan to reduce emissions to combat global warming.

The Western Climate Initiative, a collaborative of seven Western states and four Canadian provinces, agreed to try to reduce carbon emissions to 15 percent lower than 2005 levels by 2020.

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?”