After some initial hesitation on its news pages, the New York Times' editorial board has linked the dust storm that dumped tons of fine red particles on Sydney, Australia last month (and described in detail on these pages), in part, to the climate chaos that is already ravaging many parts of the planet:

"It is tempting to think the dust storm that enveloped eastern Australia last month — choking Sydney with an estimated 5,000 tons of orange dust — is an anomalous event, the result of a decade-long drought. There is solid evidence that the number of dust storms is on the rise and a strong possibility that they may become more common as climate change advances."

News from our other blogs and around the web.

The Littlest Protest: AFP's healthcare protest is small but spunky. Costumes and pics.

Parting Shots: Yet another company, Apple, leaves Chamber of Commerce over outdated climate stance. [Yahoo]

Gearing Up: Pre-Copenhagen, Denmark shows reporters like Kate Sheppard what's green.

Spot Check: Enviros use satellites and thermal imaging to spot illegal toxic waste dumps. [New Scientist]

E.coli Conservatism: Can another scary NYT story about E.coli = actual food reform?




Levi Johnston, one of the nation's best known baby daddies, is getting into the nut business. In a new series of commercials for pistachios, Johnston wears a green Alaska t-shirt and strolls up to the camera flanked by a bouncer. "Now Levi Johnston does it with protection," the announcer quips, as Johnston pops a green one in his mouth. Cute line, but was Johnston really the biggest celebrity they could get? Oh wait, there's former Miss Teen South Carolina too.

The commercial's maker is none other than Roll International, the parent company of Fiji Water. Fiji Water, you may recall, was the subject of a recent Mother Jones expose showing that, among other things, the water is bottled under a military dictatorship, and its bottles use twice as much plastic as competitors'. Roll seems to be trying to make pistachios sexy, both by using Johnston and by a video contest asking viewers how they "do it" (and by "do it" they mean crack open pistachio nuts). But like the Fiji Water Twitter strategy, Roll's TV approach is flawed. So they want to be sexy? Fine. But keep the kids out of it, would you? Throughout the contest promo there's porny music in the background. One shot catches a young woman from above, rolling on the floor as she puts a nut in her mouth. "Do you do it on the floor?" the narrator asks. A few seconds later, there's a shot of young kids hanging out while the narrator asks "Do you do it in a tree?" I'm not saying it's pedophilia or anything, it just seems a little odd and inconsistent. Videos are below, judge for yourself.


Econundrum: Household Conservation Smackdown

Q: If I could only choose one thing to do in my lifetime to reduce my carbon footprint, what should it be?

A: Switch out your bulbs. Insulate your house. Recycle. Cinderelly, Cinderelly. Frankly, it’s all a little overwhelming. Wouldn't it be great to know which personal conservation activities get you the most carbon-reducing bang for your buck? Researchers at Oregon State University calculated the lifetime impact of a few popular ones. Here’s what they found:

  • Recycling newspaper, magazines, glass, plastic aluminum, and steel cans: 19 tons of CO2 saved
  • Replacing old refrigerator with energy-efficient model: 21 tons saved
  • Replacing ten 75-w incandescent bulbs with 25-w Energy-efficient lights: 40 tons saved
  • Replace single-glazed windows with energy-efficient windows: 133 tons saved
  • Reducing miles driven from 231 to 155 per week: 162 tons saved
  • Increasing car’s fuel economy from 20 to 30 mpg: 163 tons saved

So: If you can't afford to replace your fridge (or you're emotionally attached to your avocado green late '70s model), drive 10 fewer miles a week. If you rent and can't persuade your landlord to upgrade your windows, drive 62 fewer miles a week (um, time to buy a bike).

The bottom line: Keep recycling. Switch out those lightbulbs. But whatever you do, cut down on your car time, and if you must drive, do it in a fuel-efficient car.


Happy Friday, folks. A sampling of health and environment news on our other blogs:

Abortion support declining? A new Pew poll says yes, but ABC's polling director doubts it.

Keep on the sunny side: Don't worry about global warming, says the US Chamber of Commerce. After all, humans are now less vulnerable to rising temperatures because of the growing use of air conditioners. Right.

Changes to Kerry-Boxer: Gone are any mention of China and India in the latest version of climate bill.

More Chamber unease: GE is the latest company to disapprove of the US Chamber of Commerce's stance on climate change.

Charting public health-care opinion: Bottom line: the public really likes the idea of having a choice between a private and a public health insurance plan.

Opt-out revolution? One in four moms stay home. Proof that women ditch their fulfilling and high-paying careers once it's baby time?

Republicans know they don't like Kerry-Boxer: They just can't figure out why. The party is divided between those who think action will destroy the economy and those who still question whether climate change is occurring at all.

The NSF's porn problem: The National Science Foundation handles twenty percent of all federally supported research in all American colleges. Some of its employees are having a grand old time surfing sex sites. Way more fun than reviewing grant applications.

Climate change crystal ball: What does prediction guru Bueno de Mesquita think about the odds of getting any kind of serious global action on climate change?

Editor's Note: We're happy to introduce the first weekly roundup from our friends over at TreeHugger. Enjoy!

First Global Warming Lawsuit Against US Polluters a Success
The 2nd Circuit Court of Appeals sides with coalition of states, New York City and environmental groups, who claimed that utilities' emissions from coal-burning power plants were a public nuisance—opening the door for more lawsuits against industries contributing to climate change.

The Climate Bill is Already Killing Coal Plants

In anticipation of a unified climate bill coming out of Congress, and the curbs it will place on carbon-intensive power plants, utilities in Arizona and Nevada are putting plans for new coal-burning power plants on hold.

It's Not Them, It's Us: Developing World Population Growth Not Adding Much CO2
Populations may be rising rapidly in parts of Africa, but in terms of global warming impact, this pales in comparison to much slower growth in the developed world—52% of the world's population contributing just 13% to growing carbon emissions. That's about equal to the contribution of the US, which only had 3.4% of world population growth.

China Buys 80 Very High Speed Trains for $4 Billion

Is the future of high speed rail in China? The Chinese Ministry of Railways has announced that it will be buying 80 new trains from Bombardier. With a top speed of 236 mph, China hopes to speed the the head of the pack.

EU & US Try to Woo China Into Climate Deal—Propose Eliminating Import Tariffs on Green Goods
Green technology transfer is a key ask on the part of developing nations if they are to sign onto a post-Kyoto successor, not to mention deeper emission reduction pledges from industrial countries. The EU and US are meeting to discuss the first part of that, and it could mean billions of dollars for China.

World's Largest Meat Exporter Says No More Amazon Deforestation Beef
JBS-Frisboi, the world's largest exported of meat products (think 40,000 cattle processed each day) has agreed no source beef from areas of the Amazon recently deforested, and will implement a new tracking system along it's supply chain, to back up those pledges.

Half of All Animal Species Will Be Extinct Within Your Lifetime, Unless Emissions Peak by 2020

The UK's Met Office has released new climate change projections and the outlook is grim. Under business-as-usual scenarios global average temperature rise will hit 4°C by 2100—meaning half of the world's animal and plant species face extinction. It gets worse: Under high emission growth scenarios, we hit that target by 2060.