Blue Marble Feed | Mother Jones Mother Jones logo en This Climate Scientist Just Won Another Victory in Court <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body> <p>Michael Mann, the <a href="" target="_blank">perennially</a> <a href="" target="_blank">embattled</a> climate scientist best known for his "hockey-stick" temperature graph, came out victorious yesterday in a court battle against a Virginia legislator and a conservative think tank that had sought to obtain thousands of Mann's emails and research documents from his time as a University of Virginia professor.</p> <p>The Virginia Supreme Court <a href="" target="_blank">ruled</a> that unpublished scientific research can be exempted from the state's Freedom of Information Act requirements, because disclosing such information would cut into the university's competitive advantage over other universities. As a result, some 12,000 of Mann's emails and papers won't be released to the <a href="" target="_blank">Energy &amp; Environment Legal Institute</a> (formerly known as the American Tradition Institute) and Virginia Delegate Robert Marshall (R-Prince William), who had requested the documents in 2011.</p> <p>In a <a href="" target="_blank">statement</a> on his Facebook page, Mann called the decision "a victory for science, public university faculty, and academic freedom."</p> <p>Back in 2012, a lower Virginia court <a href="" target="_blank">ruled</a> that the documents in question were considered "proprietary," and thus shielded from FOIA requests. ATI appealed the decision, and the case <a href="" target="_blank">landed</a> with the state's Supreme Court last October. The main question was whether research-related documents should get the same kind of protection as trade secrets and other information that could cause financial harm if released. ATI argued that Mann's emails didn't merit such protection, while Mann and U-Va. maintained that scientists should be able to hammer out their work behind closed doors before presenting a finished product to the public.&nbsp; &nbsp;</p> <p>In a <a href="" target="_blank">brief</a> filed with the Supreme Court late last year, the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press argued that in protecting Mann's research, the lower court had actually set the scope too wide, leaving open the possibility that a university could claim virtually <em>any</em> document to be proprietary. But yesterday's Supreme Court ruling revised the exemption criteria so that non-research-related documents&mdash;things like budgets and communications between administrators&mdash;could still be accessed with a FOIA, said Emily Grannis, the Reporters Committee staffer who authored the brief.</p> <p>Of course, Grannis said, the ruling is only binding in the state of Virginia, but it could serve as a model for how other states set limits for what qualifies as proprietary if similar cases arise elsewhere.</p> </body></html> <p style="font-size: 1.083em;"><a href="/blue-marble/2014/04/michael-mann-foia-uva"><strong><em>Continue Reading &raquo;</em></strong></a></p> Blue Marble Civil Liberties Climate Change Climate Desk Courts Fri, 18 Apr 2014 20:15:07 +0000 Tim McDonnell 250116 at NASA Just Found the Most Earth-Like Planet Yet <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body> <p>Hello. Good day.</p> <p>NASA just announced that astronomers have discovered the most Earth-like planet yet. <a href="" target="_blank">Kepler-186f </a>is the first <a href="" target="_blank">Goldilocks planet</a>&mdash;not too hot for water, not too cold for water&mdash;ever identified that is roughly the same size as Earth. (It's a bit larger.)</p> <p>So, is there life on that planet? It hasn't been disqualified yet. So, maybe! But probably not. But maybe! But almost certainly not. But maybe! And even if there's not its mere existence means there are very likely more planets like it out there, meaning Earth is maybe not necessarily unique, meaning life is maybe not necessarily unique to Earth. But basically, we don't know much about this new planet. Take it away, <em><a href="" target="_blank">WIRED</a></em>:</p> <blockquote> <p>[S]cientists have fairly little information about this new exoplanet, including its mass and composition. From what they can tell, the place is similar to our own world, though not quite Earth&rsquo;s twin.&nbsp;</p> <p>"We consider it more of an Earth cousin," said astronomer <a href="" target="_blank">Elisa Quintana</a> of NASA's Ames Research Center, lead author of <a href="" target="_blank">a paper about the finding</a> appearing today in <em>Science</em>. "It's got the same size and characteristics, but a very different parent star."</p> </blockquote> <p>The planet is about 500 light years away, so it's close, but not <em>that</em> close. This is all fun and exciting, but here's the annoying bit: It was discovered by the Kepler space telescope which means we're in for a cliffhanger:</p> <blockquote> <p>Though Kepler is <a href="" target="_blank">out of commission</a> and won&rsquo;t be able to provide any more information about this newest exoplanet, future telescopes could give us new insight. NASA is planning to launch the <a href="" target="_blank">Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite</a> (TESS) in 2017, which will watch bright nearby stars, including M dwarfs, for more exoplanets and be able to determine their masses. Follow up observations with the agency&rsquo;s J<a href="" target="_blank">ames Webb Space Telescope</a>, currently slated to launch in 2018, could even look at the atmospheres of these worlds, providing definitive proof that they have chemicals like oxygen and water on their surfaces.</p> </blockquote> <p>See you in 2017, possible Earth cousin!</p> </body></html> Blue Marble Science Thu, 17 Apr 2014 20:12:41 +0000 Ben Dreyfuss 250066 at No, the "Blood Moon" Does Not Mean the World Is Ending <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body> <p>Why is this night different from all other nights? Tonight the&nbsp;clouds will part, the heavens will open, the stars will shine, and the moon will bleed. <a href="" target="_blank">Groovy</a>! The blood moon, a deliciously named full lunar eclipse rendering the moon red, will be visible in the skies above <a href="" target="_blank">North America around 2 a.m. Eastern time.</a></p> <p>In the olden days the sudden appearance of a big red bloody moon probably sent&nbsp;people into a panic. Terrified, they probably ran around screaming, "Help me! Help me! My God, the moon has turned red! The moon has turned red! We're all going to die!" But then the moon would turn back to normal and they'd&nbsp;still be alive and probably a bit ashamed that they'd lost their heads and they'd warn their kids, "Look, kids, one day the moon might turn red for a little while, but don't worry. It's just a thing. Why does it happen? I don't know. Why does anything happen in this crazy world of ours! But if it does turn red, it'll be fine. Don't run around screaming. You'll feel very silly in the morning."</p> <p>Nowadays, we have computers and microwaves and iPhones and&nbsp;telescopes and we're all very bright and evolved and we all watch <em>Cosmos</em> and the moon turning red is no big cause for alarm and&hellip;wait a second, <a href="" target="_blank">what's that</a>?</p> <div class="inline inline-center" style="display: table; width: 1%"><img alt="" class="image" src="/files/Screen%20Shot%202014-04-14%20at%203.13.45%20PM.png"></div> <p>John Hagee, a best-selling author and evangelist who once claimed that <a href="" target="_blank">Hurricane Katrina was God's way of punishing New Orleans for allowing LGBT parades</a>, says that this is the dawning of the end of days. "God is literally screaming at the world: 'I'm coming soon.'" This is literally not true.</p> <p>The mega-church founder does not believe that the world is ending just because the moon is turning red. The moon turns red all the time. The last total lunar eclipse was was in <a href="" target="_blank">December 2011</a>. What makes this blood moon slightly more notable than your average run of the mill blood moon is that it is the first of a tetrad, a series of four lunar eclipses that will happen about six months apart. The next one is set for October 8. These are sort of uncommon insofar as the last one was <a href="" target="_blank">in 1967</a>, but not <em>that</em> uncommon when you really think about the vastness of time, history, and space. <em>But</em> 1967 was also the year of the Six-Day War, Hagee would point out, and this blood moon is falling on the first night of Passover and even the most critical skeptic would have to admit that that coincidence is&hellip;well,&nbsp;utterly meaningless. As even the Young Earth Creationists at <a href="" target="_blank">Answers in Genesis </a>explain, "The timing of the eclipses&hellip;while interesting, falls far short of the sort of signs that will cause the heavens to shake (Matthew 24:29)."</p> <p>The End Times are not here. Sorry. Don't forget to file your taxes.&nbsp;</p> <p><strong>UPDATE:</strong> Should the clouds fail to part, you will be able to see the blood moon here:</p> <p><iframe allowfullscreen="" frameborder="0" height="354" src="//" width="630"></iframe></p> <p><strong>UPDATE 2, April 15, 2014, 2:25am ET: </strong>This moon sure is taking its sweet time turning red, isn't it? While we wait, here's the music video for the Mando Diao song "Mr. Moon."</p> <p><iframe allowfullscreen="" frameborder="0" height="354" src="//" width="630"></iframe></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> </body></html> Blue Marble Science Mon, 14 Apr 2014 20:46:26 +0000 Ben Dreyfuss 249756 at Will Colbert Use "The Late Show" To Save the World? <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body> <p><span style="font-family: Verdana, Arial, sans-serif; line-height: 2em;">Jumping from his niche cable show on&nbsp;Comedy Central to a plum CBS slot will roughly triple</span><span style="font-family: Verdana, Arial, sans-serif; line-height: 2em;">&nbsp;Stephen Colbert's <a href="" target="_blank">national television audience</a>.&nbsp;So when he takes over David Letterman's late night show&nbsp;next year, we at Climate Desk&nbsp;be tracking one thing in particular with great interest: Will he bring his astute political satire about global warming to an even bigger audience? </span></p> <p><span style="font-family: Verdana, Arial, sans-serif; line-height: 2em;">None of the current late night barons&mdash;Kimmel, Fallon, Ferguson among them&mdash;are especially notable for speaking out about climate change, though they occasionally work it into the <a href="" target="_blank">odd monologue</a> or <a href="" target="_blank">guest appearance</a>. Colbert is different. In his role as&nbsp;right-wing Satirist-in-Chief, Colbert has regularly skewered climate deniers by pretending to be one of them. One of my favorites is this&nbsp;takedown of </span><em style="line-height: 2em;">Fox and Friends</em><span style="font-family: Verdana, Arial, sans-serif; line-height: 2em;"> (a frequent target of the show), whose hosts had accused Nickelodeon of pushing a sinister </span>warmist<span style="font-family: Verdana, Arial, sans-serif; line-height: 2em;"> agenda...via SpongeBob Square Pants:</span></p> <div style="background-color:#000000;width:520px;"> <div style="padding:4px;"> <iframe frameborder="0" height="288" src="" width="512"></iframe> <p style="text-align:left;background-color:#FFFFFF;padding:4px;margin-top:4px;margin-bottom:0px;font-family:Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif;font-size:12px;"><b><a href="">The Colbert Report</a></b><br> Get More: <a href="">Daily Show Full Episodes</a>,<a href="">Indecision Political Humor</a>,<a href="">The Colbert Report on Facebook</a></p> </div> </div> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><span style="font-family: Verdana, Arial, sans-serif; line-height: 2em;">And this year, he nailed Donald Trump:</span></p> <div style="background-color:#000000;width:520px;"> <div style="padding:4px;"> <iframe frameborder="0" height="288" src="" width="512"></iframe> <p style="text-align:left;background-color:#FFFFFF;padding:4px;margin-top:4px;margin-bottom:0px;font-family:Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif;font-size:12px;"><b><a href="">The Colbert Report</a></b><br> Get More: <a href="">Daily Show Full Episodes</a>,<a href="">Indecision Political Humor</a>,<a href="">The Colbert Report on Facebook</a></p> </div> </div> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><span style="font-family: Verdana, Arial, sans-serif; line-height: 2em;">But Colbert has not just&nbsp;mercilessly parodied the attacks on&nbsp;climate science,&nbsp;he has&nbsp;also delved into some of the more complex aspects of climate adaptation, including&nbsp;<a href="" target="_blank">geoengineering</a>. During an&nbsp;interview last year, Harvard University environmental scientist David Keith presented the case for pouring out sulfuric acid into the atmosphere to temporarily ameliorate the effects of warming. "It would be a totally imperfect technical fix," Keith <a href="" target="_blank">said</a>. "It would have risks. It wouldn't get us out of the long-run need to stop polluting. But it might actually save people and be useful."</span></p> <p>But perhaps his best&mdash;most sobering, most blistering, most poignant&mdash;take on the subject was during this segment from January 2013, where he lampooned an emerging trend of commentators throwing up their hands in faux despair, and resigning themselves to the fate of a warming world. (In this case, he's going after&nbsp;Erick Erickson, who worked for CNN at the time):</p> <blockquote> <p>COLBERT: Sure, I know: America beat Tojo, we crushed Hitler, we put a man on the moon, but incrementally reducing CO2 emissions? That sounds like a lot of work. And how can fight an enemy we can&rsquo;t see? I mean, get out of here, get, get out of here, carbon! [Swats air]. Did I hit it? I don&rsquo;t know. So it&rsquo;s high-time we stop trying to solve the problem and resign ourselves to each day getting worse.&nbsp;<span style="font-family: Verdana, Arial, sans-serif; line-height: 2em;">Because ladies and gentlemen, when Erick Erickson says "get used to it", he means get used to city-swallowing storms, mass extinctions, deadly heat waves, crippling floods, and droughts that make a desert out of Oklahoma.&nbsp;</span><span style="font-family: Verdana, Arial, sans-serif; line-height: 2em;">And, that's just how it is now. Our problems are just too big to cure. So join me and Erick. Give up. Crawl into bed with a cheesecake and wait for death. And now, sure, the only thing worse than global warming itself might be knowing you're destroying the planet, and doing nothing, but if guys like me and Erick have our way, you'd better get used to it.</span></p> </blockquote> <div style="background-color:#000000;width:520px;"> <div style="padding:4px;"> <iframe frameborder="0" height="288" src="" width="512"></iframe> <p style="text-align:left;background-color:#FFFFFF;padding:4px;margin-top:4px;margin-bottom:0px;font-family:Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif;font-size:12px;"><b><a href="">The Colbert Report</a></b><br> Get More: <a href="">Daily Show Full Episodes</a>,<a href="">Indecision Political Humor</a>,<a href="">The Colbert Report on Facebook</a></p> </div> </div> </body></html> Blue Marble Climate Change Climate Desk Media Fri, 11 Apr 2014 19:07:58 +0000 James West 249631 at Watch Harrison Ford Fight Climate Change In a Fighter Jet <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body> <p><iframe allowfullscreen="" frameborder="0" height="354" src="//" width="630"></iframe></p> <p>Any film that opens with Harrison Ford buckling into a fighter jet for the sake of science can't be all bad. Especially when that's followed by Don Cheadle tromping through Texas cow country, followed by <em>New York Times</em> columnist Thomas Friedman strapping on a flak jacket and pushing into the heart of Syria's civil war. It's almost enough to make you forget you're watching a show about climate change.</p> <p>But in fact, the new Showtime series <a href="" target="_blank"><em>Years of Living Dangerously </em></a>is about just that, traversing the warming globe alongside an A-List cast that, as the season progresses, will include Matt Damon, Jessica Alba, and Arnold Schwarzenegger. The show premieres Sunday (but the first episode, above, is already online), and counts Hollywood kingmakers Jerry Weintraub and James Cameron as executive producers, and <a href="" target="_blank"><em>Climate Progress</em></a> founding editor Joe Romm and Climate Central scientist <a href="" target="_blank">Heidi Cullen</a> as science advisors.</p> <p>If you already follow climate change, many of the stories here won't be new&mdash;<a href="" target="_blank">deforestation in Indonesia</a>, <a href="" target="_blank">drought in Texas</a>, <a href="" target="_blank">conflict in Syria</a>. But <em>Years </em>is a rare, big-budget effort to put the issue squarely in front of an audience more accustomed to <em>Dexter </em>and <em>Homeland</em>, and it does so with spectacular cinematography and compelling, interwoven plot lines that help to propel you through the basics of climate science to arrive at... aw, don't listen to me, just watch the thing.</p> </body></html> Blue Marble Video Climate Change Climate Desk Film and TV Thu, 10 Apr 2014 18:17:47 +0000 Tim McDonnell 249521 at Residents Displaced by Massive Sinkhole Reach $48 Million Settlement With Mining Company <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body> <p>Twenty months after a 30-acre sinkhole opened up in the swamp behind their community, Bayou Corne, Louisiana, residents reached a $48 million settlement with the salt-mining company Texas Brine. Geologists say the company's collapsed storage caverns likely triggered the environmental catastrophe and the series of small earthquakes that accompanied it. The class-action lawsuit, filed by the 90 homeowners who hadn't taken buyout offers from the company, was scheduled to go to trial next week. Residents of the community of 300 have been under a mandatory evacuation order since August of 2012 over fears that explosive-level gases might collect under their homes&mdash;although some residents have installed air monitors in an effort to wait it out.</p> <p>Per the Baton Rouge <a href="" target="_blank"><em>Advocate</em></a>:</p> <blockquote> <p>"We firmly believe the $48 million is a really good settlement number," said Larry Centola, one of the attorney&rsquo;s representing the owners and residents of about 90 homes and camps in the Bayou Corne area.</p> <p>...</p> <p>The settlement comes a few weeks after Texas Brine closed on the last of the 66 direct, out-of-court property buyouts and appears to provide a path toward conclusion for another wave of Bayou Corne residents displaced by the sinkhole disaster now more than 20 months old.</p> </blockquote> <p>As I <a href="" target="_blank">reported</a> in a story for the magazine last year, the sinkhole has confounded geologists and state regulators, who previously believed that it was impossible for an underground salt cavern like the one underneath Bayou Corne&mdash;and used for natural gas storage by energy companies all over the Gulf Coast&mdash;to collapse from the side. But that's what happened. In the meantime, residents have been left to wonder if their community will meet the same fate as the town next door, Grand Bayou, which was evacuated and reduced to empty slabs after a natural gas leak a decade earlier.</p> </body></html> Blue Marble Climate Change Wed, 09 Apr 2014 16:22:28 +0000 Tim Murphy 249406 at Here's Why the World Is Spending Less on Renewable Energy <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body> <p>The United Nations climate folks think global investment in renewable energy <a href="" target="_blank">needs to hit $1 trillion a year</a> by 2030 to keep global warming to an acceptable level. So it might seem disconcerting that in 2013, investment dropped for the second year in a row, down 14 percent from 2012 to $214 billion, according to <a href="" target="_blank">new data</a> released by Bloomberg New Energy Finance (BNEF) at its annual confab in New York this week.</p> <p>As investment fell, so too did the total amount of renewable energy being installed worldwide. That's down nearly 7 percent from 2012 to 2013.</p> <p>But don't worry&mdash;at least not <em>too</em> much. Even though fewer renewable power systems (excluding large hydroelectric projects, which BNEF doesn't count in this analysis) were installed last year, we were using more of it: Renewables accounted for 8.5 percent of all the power generated worldwide in 2013, up from 7.8 percent in 2012. BNEF estimated that renewables saved 1.2 billion metric tons of carbon dioxide emissions, equal to keeping <em>252.6 million</em> <a href="" target="_blank">cars</a> off the road.</p> <p>There are two forces at work behind the dropping investment figures, one a good news story and the other not so much. The good news is that 80 percent of the investment decline came thanks to the falling cost of renewable energy technology, primarily solar panels, according to BNEF Advisory Board Chairman Michael Liebreich.&nbsp;The cost of a <a href="" target="_blank">rooftop solar system in California</a>, for example, which is a good barometer of national trends, has fallen by a third just since 2010. The remaining 20 percent was due to a drop in actual construction activity, thanks to the uncertain fate of government subsidies and general economic sluggishness, especially in Europe.&nbsp;</p> <p>Still, Liebreich told the clean-energy CEOs and investors gathered here this morning that Bloomberg's proprietary data about future investments suggest annual clean tech installations worldwide are likely to jump 37 percent to 112 gigawatts&mdash;a record level&mdash;by 2015. Even last year, renewables accounted for more than 40 percent of all the new power installations (including coal plants, nuke plants, etc.) built in 2013. In other words, any time a new power system gets built, it's increasingly likely to be renewable and not something dirtier.</p> <p>"This is about a future that's structured differently than the past," Liebreich said.</p> <p>The global trends weren't spread evenly across countries. Even though China's overall investment dropped, it still managed to surpass, for the first time ever, the sum spent by all of Europe, where a stagnant economy led countries like Spain and Bulgaria to <a href="" target="_blank">cut spending</a> on clean-energy subsidies. China is the world's top renewables investor, spending $56 billion on it in 2013 (the United States is at $35.8 billion).</p> <p>In the US, the dip in investment hid a couple other important milestones: Last month California, the nation's biggest solar market, <a href="" target="_blank">broke its all-time solar power production record</a> twice on two consecutive days. And in January, the United States got an all-time record 4.8 percent of its power from wind turbines, according to BNEF.</p> </body></html> Blue Marble Charts Climate Change Climate Desk Energy Tech Top Stories Infrastructure Tue, 08 Apr 2014 20:58:27 +0000 Tim McDonnell 249331 at …But Does a Fire Tornado in Australia Spin the Other Way? <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body> <p><iframe allowfullscreen="" height="354" mozallowfullscreen="" src="//" webkitallowfullscreen="" width="630"></iframe></p> <p><em>This <a href="" target="_blank">story</a> was originally published by </em><a href="" target="_blank">Slate</a> <em>and is reproduced here as part of the <a href="" target="_blank">Climate Desk</a> collaboration.</em></p> <div class="text text-1 parbase section"> <p>Last weekend <a href="" target="_blank">I posted a video</a> taken not too far from where I live showing a "fire tornado"&mdash;really a spinning vortex of rising air drawing its power from fire on the ground. It was pretty dramatic, mostly due to hundreds of tumbleweeds swirling around it, drawn in by the rotating column of wind.</p> </div> <div class="text-2 text parbase section"> <p>After posting it, I got a note from Chris Tangey, who specializes in photography in Australia&rsquo;s Outback. <a href="" target="_blank">He took some footage of a fire tornado in 2012</a> (watch above) that he claimed was better than what I posted&hellip;and he's right.</p> <div class="inline inline-left" style="display: table; width: 1%"> <img alt="fire_tornado" class="image" src="/files/fire_tornado630.png"><div class="caption"> <a href="">Chris Tangey</a>/Vimeo</div> </div> <div class="text parbase text-4 section"> <p>Yegads. The speed and power of such a vortex depends on how quickly the air in the middle can rise, which in turn draws in air from farther out; as that air spins and falls in the rotation speeds up, tightening the vortex and magnifying it. As you can see in the fire, spurts of flame leap up the inside of the vortex, clearly giving it more strength. The sound and speed of it are enthralling.</p> <p>I had never heard of this phenomenon until a year or so ago. But now there are cameras everywhere&hellip;and, sadly, with global warming likely increasing both <a href="" target="_blank">the number</a> and <a href="" target="_blank">severity</a> of wildfires, we&rsquo;re bound to see lots more footage like this.</p> </div> <div class="text parbase text-5 section"> <p><em>Note: The title of this post is a joke; in general </em><a href="" target="_blank"><em>the Coriolis force</em></a><em> only acts </em><a href="" target="_blank"><em>on far larger scales</em></a><em>, so I would think a vortex like this (such as </em><a href="" target="_blank"><em>a dust devil</em></a><em>) is just as likely to spin clockwise as counterclockwise. It would be interesting to see some statistic on this, though!</em></p> </div> </div> </body></html> Blue Marble Video Climate Change Climate Desk Fri, 04 Apr 2014 19:22:17 +0000 Phil Plait 249156 at How Do San Franciscans Really Feel About Google Buses? <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body> <p>Earlier this month, <a href="" target="_blank">the Bay Area Council</a>, a coalition of Bay Area businesses, commissioned <a href="" target="_blank">EMC Research</a> to ask 500 likely voters in San Francisco how they felt about the <a href="" target="_blank">much</a> <a href="" target="_blank">discussed</a> commuter shuttles that take people from The City, Oakland, and Berkeley to tech-company campuses in Silicon Valley. The EMC researchers wrote in the ensuing report (<a href="http://" target="_blank">PDF</a>), released this week, "Despite what it might look like from recent media coverage, a majority of voters have a positive opinion of the shuttle buses and support allowing buses to use MUNI stops." (MUNI is San Francisco's municipal transportation agency.)</p> <p>But I'm not so sure that rosy conclusion is warranted. For starters, Bauer's Intelligent Transportation, which contracts with several tech companies to provide bus service, is a <a href="" target="_blank">member</a> of the Bay Area Council. So are Google, Facebook, and Apple. There's also the fact that the survey found an awful lot of shuttle riders to poll. Six percent of respondents said that they rode one of the shuttle buses. Now, estimates of shuttle bus ridership vary wildly, but San Francisco's total population is only about 836,000&mdash;six percent of which is about 50,000. A spokeswoman from the San Francisco Municipal Transit Agency recently told me that an estimated 4,125 San Franciscans ride the tech buses. That's closer to 0.5 percent<strong> </strong>of city residents. The San Francisco <em>Examiner</em> <a href="" target="_blank">points out</a> that the survey excluded Spanish speakers.</p> <p>And then there's the delicate phrasing of the survey questions. Last week, <em>Pacific Standard</em> had a <a href="" target="_blank">great little post</a> explaining why surveys are not always accurate measures of public opinion. The post looks at a recent survey conducted about the movie <em>Noah</em>. The group <a href="" target="_blank">Faith Driven Consumer</a> asked respondents: "As a Faith Driven Consumer, are you satisfied with a Biblically themed movie&mdash;designed to appeal to you&mdash;which replaces the Bible's core message with one created by Hollywood?" Unsurprisingly, 98 percent said they were not satisfied.<strong> </strong><em>Variety</em> reported the survey's findings in a <a href="" target="_blank">story</a> titled "Faith-Driven Consumers Dissatisfied With Noah, Hollywood Religious Pics."</p> <p>I thought of the <em>Noah</em> survey as I read the the tech-shuttle survey's script. Here are two examples of the questions, plus the percentage of respondents who strongly agreed with the given statements.</p> <blockquote> <p>Please tell me if you strongly agree, somewhat agree, somewhat disagree, or strongly disagree with the following statements:</p> <div class="inline inline-center" style="display: table; width: 1%"> <img alt="" class="image" src="/files/feelings-about-tech-sector-630.gif"><div class="caption">Image courtesy of Bay Area Council</div> </div> </blockquote> <blockquote> <p>Now, thinking specifically about employee shuttle buses in San Francisco, please tell me if you strongly agree, somewhat agree, somewhat disagree, or strongly disagree with each of the following statements:</p> </blockquote> <div class="inline inline-center" style="display: table; width: 1%"><img alt="" class="image" src="/files/attributes.gif"></div> <p>To be fair, the survey did include a few questions that allowed respondents to express negative opinions about the buses. But those questions tended to include loaded language. For example:</p> <blockquote> <p>Now, thinking specifically about shuttle buses in San Francisco, please tell me if you strongly agree, somewhat agree, somewhat disagree, or strongly disagree with the following statements:</p> </blockquote> <div class="inline inline-center" style="display: table; width: 1%"><img alt="" class="image" src="/files/ruining-630.gif"></div> <p>I'm guessing that if the word "causing" had been replaced with "contributing to," more people would have agreed with the statement. Same if the word "ruining" had been replaced with "changing."</p> <p>Rufus Jeffris, the vice president for communications and major events at the Bay Area Council, wrote to me in an email that the Council stands by the survey. "The poll was intended to provide some broader context and perspective on some of the wrenching and painful issues we're dealing with," he wrote. "We feel strongly that scapegoating a single type of worker and single industry is not productive and does not move us forward to solutions."</p> </body></html> Blue Marble Tech Thu, 27 Mar 2014 10:00:23 +0000 Kiera Butler 248386 at Like Meat and Beer? Hate Cancer? <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body> <p>Spring is coming.&nbsp;Before long, beer-drinking men and women will be coaxing fiery embers to life and tossing dead animals onto charred metal grates above them. Ahh, the sizzle and snap of fat as it hits red hot coals. Oh no! What's that you say? Carcinogens are caused by the "c<a href="" target="_blank">ontact of dripping fat with hot embers</a>"?</p> <p>Fear not, eager human. And keep a couple of your dark winter beers handy, because researchers from Portugal and Spain have found that marinating your pork chops in dark beer dramatically reduces carcinogenic contamination. Rejoice!</p> <p>Smoke, pyrolysis (organic matter decomposing in intense heat), and dripping fat can all cause the accumulation of polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) on charcoal-grilled meats. According to the <a href="" target="_blank">EPA</a>, PAHs have caused tumors, birth defects, and "reproductive problems" in lab animals&mdash;though the Agency clarifies that these effects have not yet been observed in humans. You can also find PAHs in cigarette smoke and car exhaust.</p> <p>The researchers tested the effect of marinating meat with Pilsner, nonalcohol Pilsner, and Black beer, against a control sampling of raw meat. Black beer show the strongest "inhibitory effect," reducing the formation of carcinogenic PAHs by 53 percent. Pilsner beer and nonalcholic Pilsner, showed less significant results: 13 percent and 25 percent respectively. The scientists aren't entirely sure why a beer&nbsp;marinade has this effect; they speculate that it might be the antioxidant compounds in beer, especially darker varieties, which inhibit the movement of free radicals necessary for the formation of&nbsp;PAHs.</p> <p><a href="" target="_blank">The study</a>, which will be published in the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry, and sponsored by the University of Porto and the American Chemical Society, confirms what we always knew in our hearts: Guinness is good for you.</p> </body></html> Blue Marble Food and Ag Health Science Thu, 27 Mar 2014 10:00:22 +0000 Benjy Hansen-Bundy 248381 at GOP Lawmakers Scramble to Court Tesla <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body> <p>Electric vehicle sales in New Jersey <a href="" target="_blank">ran out of batteries earlier this month</a>, when the Chris Christie administration voted to ban car manufacturers from selling directly to drivers. The companies must now use third-party dealers. The ban applies to all car manufacturers, but seemed particularly aimed at Tesla, which had been in negotiations with the administration for months to sell electric cars straight from its own storefronts in the state.</p> <p>The move was a win for the state's <a href="" target="_blank">surprisingly powerful auto dealer lobby</a> and a loss for one of the country's <a href="" target="_blank">biggest electric car makers</a>. But it also cemented New Jersey's place as a non-contender for the real prize: a <a href="" target="_blank">$5 billion battery "gigafactory"</a> that Tesla plans to begin construction on later this year. With an estimated 6,500 employees, the factory will likely become a keystone of the United State's clean energy industry and an economic boon for its host state. Now, Arizona, Texas, New Mexico, and Nevada are scrambling to get picked, and last week Republican legislators in Arizona began to try pushing their state to the top of the pile.</p> <p>It's the latest sign that, at least at the state level, the clean energy industry's best friend might be the GOP. Newt Gingrich <a href="" target="_blank">quickly pounced</a> on Christie after the direct sales ban for "artificially" insulating car dealers, just weeks after <a href="" target="_blank">calling for John Kerry to resign</a> after Kerry named climate change as a principle challenge of the generation. On Tuesday, Texas Governor Rick Perry called his state's direct sales ban <a href="" target="_blank">"antiquated"</a> nearly a year after a <a href="" target="_blank">Democrat-backed bill</a> to change the policy was killed.</p> <p>New Jersey and Texas <a href="" target="_blank">aren't the only states</a> where you can't buy a Tesla car directly from the company: Arizona and Maryland also have direct sales bans. But a bill passed out of committee in Arizona's GOP-controlled Senate last week would reverse the state's position and allow electric vehicle companies to sell directly out of their showrooms. The bill's sponsor, Rep. Warren Peterson (R-Gilbert) said he was spurred by the New Jersey situation to amend what he sees as a creeping assault on free market principles.</p> <p>"For me, it's not about Tesla or electric cars," he said. "For me, a big concern I have now is we are limiting someone's choice."</p> <p>But despite backing from some prominent Arizona Republicans (Sen. John McComish <a href="" target="_blank">told the <em>Arizona Daily Star</em></a> he didn't see why the state should "prevent someone else who has a better idea from making an effort to enter that industry"), Warren said he's faced opposition from others who see the bill as damaging to the state's traditional car market or a handout to Tesla, arguments that swayed the decision in New Jersey.</p> <p>"I have a tough time understanding why Republicans are opposed to it, because free markets are such a big part of the platform," he said. "States that moved away from this have made a big mistake."</p> </body></html> <p style="font-size: 1.083em;"><a href="/blue-marble/2014/03/gop-lawmakers-scramble-green-energy-cash"><strong><em>Continue Reading &raquo;</em></strong></a></p> Blue Marble Climate Change Climate Desk Corporations Energy Tech Thu, 27 Mar 2014 10:00:21 +0000 Tim McDonnell 248321 at This Is the Massive Storm That Is Happening Off the Coast of New England <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body> <p>There is a "hurricane strength" storm happening off the East Coast right now. <a href="" target="_blank">Wind speeds</a> have reportedly reached 80 mph in New England and 119 mph in the Gulf of Maine. Judging by its wind field&mdash;the three-dimensional pattern of winds&mdash;<a href="" target="_blank">the storm could be as much as four times as powerful as Superstorm Sandy</a>. Fortunately, this week's storm only grazed the East Coast (<a href="" target="_blank">though Cape Cod and Nantucket did see damage</a>).</p> <p>Using <a href="" target="_blank">Cameron Beccario's interactive weather visualization map</a>,&nbsp;you can get a sense of what wind like that actually looks like.</p> <div class="inline inline-center" style="display: table; width: 1%"> <img alt="" class="image" src="/files/Wind_0.gif"><div class="caption">Source: <a href="" target="_blank">earth</a>; GIF: Brett Brownell</div> </div> <p><a href="" target="_blank">According to the Weather Channel</a>, it looks like the storm is going to calm and slow tonight. So, everybody for the most part lucked out.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> </body></html> Blue Marble Climate Desk Wed, 26 Mar 2014 22:41:30 +0000 Ben Dreyfuss and Brett Brownell 248401 at Viewers are Furious With Animal Planet for Mistreating Animals on "Reality TV" <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body> <div> <div id="mininav" class="inline-subnav"> <!-- header content --> <div id="mininav-header-content"> <div id="mininav-header-image"> <img src="/files/images/motherjones_mininav/wildman-225.jpg" width="220" border="0"> </div> </div> <!-- linked stories --> <div id="mininav-linked-stories"> <ul> <span id="linked-story-243501"> <li><a href="/environment/2014/01/animal-abuse-drugs-call-of-the-wildman-animal-planet"> Part One: Drugs, Death, and Neglect Behind the Scenes at Animal Planet</a></li> </span> <span id="linked-story-247866"> <li><a href="/environment/2014/03/animal-abuse-coyote-call-of-the-wildman-animal-planet"> Part Two: How a Coyote Suffered (Photo)</a></li> </span> <span id="linked-story-243741"> <li><a href="/environment/2014/01/officials-warn-turtleman-illegal-animal-handling"> Animal Planet Star Was Warned He Was Breaking the Law</a></li> </span> <span id="linked-story-141917"> <li><a href="/environment/2011/10/ringling-bros-elephant-abuse"> Also Read: Our Investigation Into Elephant Abuse at Ringling Bros.</a></li> </span> </ul> </div> <!-- footer content --> </div> </div> <p>Upset viewers of Animal Planet are venting on social media after <em>Mother Jones</em> uncovered <a href="" target="_blank">photographic evidence of animal mistreatment</a> behind the scenes of the TV network's hit show, <em>Call of the Wildman</em>.</p> <p>Every garden-variety item that the network has posted on its <a href="" target="_blank">Facebook page</a> since our investigation published on Monday&mdash;the rescue of a <a href="" target="_blank">baby moose</a>, the birth of an <a href=";stream_ref=10" target="_blank">endangered kakapo</a>, photos of "<a href=";stream_ref=10" target="_blank">15 puppies so precious you'll forget your own name</a>"&mdash;has been flooded with comments about the <a href="" target="_blank">much sadder coyote photo</a> included in our report, which reveals the animal confined to a cramped trap three days before a film shoot in which the animal handler and <em>Wildman </em>star known as Turtleman planned to "capture" it by hand.</p> <p>Under the baby moose post&mdash;which asks Animal Planet followers, "Who doesn't love a happy ending, especially when it involves an animal as cute as this one?"&mdash;D'Shannon Llewellyn&nbsp;writes: "We all love happy endings but more so when they aren't staged and involve abuse and stress that is intentionally inflicted on the animal for the financial profit of your tv station.&nbsp;#CalloftheWildman&nbsp;Staged, Abusive, and certainly not animal loving."</p> <p>Rona Seltzer posted a message echoed by other commenters, writing that she has now "stopped watching/supporting animal planet due to so many stories about abuse on some of their shows."</p> <p>"The images and investigation coming out of that show are absolutely disgusting," wrote Ryan M Simmons. "It's 2014, not 1814. The short lived days of glamorizing white trash who have no regards for the well being of animals have passed."</p> <p>More from Animal Planet's Facebook page on Tuesday:</p> <div class="inline inline-center" style="display: table; width: 1%"><img alt="" class="image" src="/files/Screen-Shot-2014-03-25-at-2.28.jpg" style="float: center; height: 567px; width: 500px;"></div> <p>Amid a lengthy thread on the <a href="" target="_blank">Facebook page of Animal Place</a>, a sanctuary for farmed animals in California, <a href="">Barb Ruguone</a> summarizes a theme pointed out by multiple commenters: "You'd think that a channel named Animal Planet would be working for the humane treatment of animals and education and not contribute to their abuse. I was so sad to learn of their part in abuse."</p> <p>There has been a similar <a href="" target="_blank">outpouring on Twitter</a>. Michael McIntyre &rlm;(<a href="" target="_blank">@FeverCityStudio</a>) summed up the mood this way:</p> <blockquote align="center" class="twitter-tweet" lang="en"> <p><a href="">@comebackshane</a> <a href="">@AnimalPlanet</a> Not. Cool.</p> &mdash; Michael McIntyre (@FeverCityStudio) <a href="">March 25, 2014</a> </blockquote> <script async src="//" charset="utf-8"></script><blockquote align="center" class="twitter-tweet" data-conversation="none" lang="en"> <p><a href="">@MotherJones</a> <a href="">@AnimalPlanet</a> That's appalling! I'm in tears looking at this beautiful animal suffering at the hands of a "reality" TV show!</p> &mdash; Caryn Daffan (@CarynDaffan) <a href="">March 24, 2014</a> </blockquote> <script async src="//" charset="utf-8"></script><blockquote align="center" class="twitter-tweet" lang="en"> <p><a href="">@MotherJones</a> <a href="">@AnimalPlanet</a> The moral of the story is that everyone needs to stop watching faked "nature" shows, as I did long ago.</p> &mdash; Traci Degerman (@TraciDegerman) <a href="">March 24, 2014</a> </blockquote> <script async src="//" charset="utf-8"></script><blockquote align="center" class="twitter-tweet" data-conversation="none" lang="en"> <p><a href="">@MotherJones</a> Seeing the pic, I can't read further. Like History and Discovery Channels, <a href="">@AnimalPlanet</a> has become an appalling mess.</p> &mdash; Tina McGugan (@TinaMcGugan) <a href="">March 24, 2014</a> </blockquote> <script async src="//" charset="utf-8"></script><blockquote align="center" class="twitter-tweet" data-conversation="none" lang="en"> <p><a href="">@AnimalPlanet</a> <a href="">@MotherJones</a> Coyote in cage disgusts me. Won't be tuning it to your channel again.</p> &mdash; NewzShrink (@NewsShrink) <a href="">March 24, 2014</a> </blockquote> <script async src="//" charset="utf-8"></script><blockquote align="center" class="twitter-tweet" lang="en"> <p><a href="">@AnimalPlanet</a> Perhaps its time to reexamine your shows and who makes them. <a href=""></a></p> &mdash; Busty Redhead (@bustyredhead) <a href="">March 25, 2014</a> </blockquote> <script async src="//" charset="utf-8"></script><p>Meanwhile, on <a href="" target="_blank">Turtleman's own Facebook page</a>, fans either seem unaware of the revelations or they are sticking by&nbsp;their&nbsp;guy:&nbsp;</p> <div class="inline inline-center" style="display: table; width: 1%"><img alt="" class="image" src="/files/Screen-Shot-2014-03-25-at-3.04.jpg" style="height: 329px; width: 500px; float: center;"></div> </body></html> Blue Marble Animals Media Regulatory Affairs Top Stories Tue, 25 Mar 2014 22:36:42 +0000 James West 248256 at Climate Change May Make Terrible Mudslides Like the One in Washington State More Common <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body> <p><em>This <a href="" target="_blank">story</a> originally appeared on the </em><a href="" target="_blank">Slate</a><em> website and is reproduced here as part of the </em><a href="" target="_blank">Climate Desk</a> <em>collaboration. </em></p> <p>The death toll from this weekend's <a href="">mudslide through Oso, Wash.</a>, is still climbing, with <a href="">more than 100</a> still listed as missing.</p> <p>The stories emerging are the definition of heart-rending. Here's one, from <a href="">the <em>Seattle Times</em></a>:</p> <blockquote> <p>One volunteer firefighter who had stopped working around 11:30 p.m. Saturday night said many tragic stories have yet to be told. He watched one rescuer find his own front door, but nothing else&mdash;not his home, his wife or his child.</p> <p>They're in the "missing" category along with many it is feared will eventually be listed as dead.</p> <p>"It's much worse than everyone's been saying," said the firefighter, who did not want to be named. "The slide is about a mile wide. Entire neighborhoods are just gone. When the slide hit the river, it was like a tsunami."</p> </blockquote> <p>The most immediate cause of the mudslide is a near-record pace of rainfall for the area so far in the month of March.</p> <div class="inline inline-center" style="display: table; width: 1%"> <img alt="" class="image" src="/files/"><div class="caption"> <strong>Rainfall so far during the winter month of March has been 200-300 percent above normal across parts of western Washington State, site of this weekend's tragic mudslide. </strong>National Weather Service's Advanced Hydrologic Prediction Service</div> </div> <p>The Pacific Northwest has had an exceptionally wet finish to its rainy season, as storms that historically would have hit California were re-routed northward by a semi-permanent dome of high pressure that's been mostly responsible for the intensifying drought there.</p> <p>This particular mudslide wasn't just a freak event brought about by heavy rain, although this month's deluge surely speeded the process. Another mudslide happened on this very same hillside just eight years ago.</p> <p>In fact, the State of Washington recently completed a project aimed at preventing future mudslides, just short distance away from the site of this weekend's deadly tragedy. Only problem is? It was on the other side of the river. Again, <a href="">from the <em>Seattle Times</em></a>:</p> <blockquote> <p>Sixteen months ago, the Washington State Department of Transportation (WSDOT) completed a $13.3 million project, called the Skaglund Hill Permanent Slide Repair, to secure an area just west of Saturday's slide, on the opposite side of the Stillaguamish River.</p> <p>That project covered about a half-mile stretch of Highway 530, from mile marker 36.25 to 36.67. It secured a hill south of the river. Saturday's slide collapsed a hill north of the river and sent mud crashing into the Stillaguamish and across Highway 530 between mile markers 37 and 38, according to WSDOT.</p> </blockquote> <p>This weekend's tragedy reminds me of a similar pair of mudslides that occurred in 1995 and 2005 along the coast of California, <a href="">in the tiny town of La Conchita</a>. In 2005, heavy rains caused groundwater levels to rise, re-mobilizing the previous debris flow and creating a repeat tragedy.</p> <p>Like in La Conchita, this weekend's disaster occurred in an area known for its landslides. There are surely other, more remote areas where this process happens with less tragic results.</p> <p>One of the most well-forecast and consequential components of human-caused climate change is the tendency for rainstorms to become more intense as the planet warms. As the effect becomes more pronounced, that will make follow-on events like flooding and landslides more common.</p> <p>But we don't have to wait for the future. This is already happening. Here's an explainer, from <a href="">the Union of Concerned Scientists</a>:</p> <blockquote> <p>As average global temperatures rise, the warmer atmosphere can also hold more moisture, <a href="">about 4 percent more per degree Fahrenheit temperature increase</a>. Thus, when storms occur there is more water vapor available in the atmosphere to fall as rain, snow or hail. Worldwide, water vapor over oceans has increased by <a href="">about 4 percent since 1970</a> according to the 2007 U.N. Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change report, its most recent.</p> <p>It only takes a small change in the amount of water vapor in the atmosphere to have a major effect. That's because storms can draw upon water vapor from regions <a href="">10 to 25 times larger</a> than the specific area where the rain or snow actually falls.</p> <p>According to the U.S. Global Change Research Program's (USGCRP) <a href="">most recent report</a>, scientists have observed less rain falling in light precipitation events and more rain falling in the heaviest precipitation events across the United States. From 1958 to 2007, the amount of rainfall in the heaviest 1 percent of storms <a href="">increased 31 percent, on average, in the Midwest</a> and 20 percent in the Southeast.</p> </blockquote> <p>The United States Geological Survey <a href="">maintains a database and monitoring program</a> dedicated to identifying other places like La Conchita and Oso that may be at risk of future mudslides.</p> <div align="center"><object classid="clsid:D27CDB6E-AE6D-11cf-96B8-444553540000" codebase=",0,47,0" height="354" id="flashObj" width="630"><param name="movie" value=";isUI=1"> <param name="bgcolor" value="#FFFFFF"> <param name="flashVars" value="videoId=3385694294001&amp;;playerID=58264559001&amp;playerKey=AQ~~,AAAAAASoY90~,_gW1ZHvKG_0UvBsh7aZU7MXZe77OcsGq&amp;domain=embed&amp;dynamicStreaming=true"> <param name="base" value=""> <param name="seamlesstabbing" value="false"> <param name="allowFullScreen" value="true"> <param name="swLiveConnect" value="true"> <param name="allowScriptAccess" value="always"> <embed allowfullscreen="true" allowscriptaccess="always" base="" bgcolor="#FFFFFF" flashvars="videoId=3385694294001&amp;;playerID=58264559001&amp;playerKey=AQ~~,AAAAAASoY90~,_gW1ZHvKG_0UvBsh7aZU7MXZe77OcsGq&amp;domain=embed&amp;dynamicStreaming=true" height="354" name="flashObj" pluginspage="" seamlesstabbing="false" src=";isUI=1" swliveconnect="true" type="application/x-shockwave-flash" width="630"></embed></object></div> </body></html> Blue Marble Climate Change Climate Desk Science Tue, 25 Mar 2014 00:14:35 +0000 Eric Holthaus 248171 at Watchdog: Chris Christie's Post-Sandy Proposal for Federal Funds Is "a Contradictory Mess" <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body> <p>An environmental watchdog group has <a href="" target="_blank">slammed</a> New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie's proposal for more Superstorm Sandy recovery funds, saying that the plan "conflicts with its own announced projects, ignores known threats, and contains numerous flaws."</p> <p>New Jersey's Office of Emergency Management released the <a href="" target="_blank">plan</a> early last week. The state must submit this proposal, known as a hazard mitigation plan, to the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) by the end of the month in order to receive more disaster recovery and mitigation aid. The plan does not ask for a specific amount of money, but functions instead as a wish list that may open up new funding streams for New Jersey in the future.</p> <p>But having reviewed the plan, Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER), a nonprofit environmental watchdog group, is calling for FEMA to require New Jersey to make major changes before accepting the plan.</p> <p>"The plan looks like it was put together at the last minute by a sleep-deprived college student, furiously cutting and pasting regardless of whether it is coherent," says Bill Wolfe, the director of PEER's New Jersey branch.</p> <p>The proposal is detailed about the risks facing coastal New Jersey in the event of another storm like Sandy. But, Wolfe tells <em>Mother Jones,</em> it is almost entirely lacking in details on how New Jersey would rebuild the coast differently. "In real terms, in exchange for [FEMA] resources, the state is proposing no concrete, enforceable commitments to change anything," Wolfe says. In light of this, Wolfe says FEMA ought to require New Jersey to make broad changes to its municipal planning codes and state building requirements before giving the proposal its seal of approval.</p> <p>In a press release, PEER <a href="" target="_blank">states</a> that it has only made "a cursory review" of the Christie administration's plan. But even its glancing evaluation turned up numerous errors. Christie's office set an April 11 deadline for public comments on the plan; but the final version is due to FEMA by the end of March. A section of the plan refers to the "Coastal Management Office," which Christie-appointee Bob Martin, the commissioner of New Jersey's Department of Environmental Protection, abolished.</p> <p>In other sections, the proposal makes statements undermining the state's ongoing construction projects. One portion of the plan decries the "hard structures" some coastal towns have built to protect vulnerable properties, as these can exacerbate erosion. But in a paragraph that follows, the plan praises work that New Jersey is overseeing to build new hard structures.</p> <p>Pieces of the plan that deal with flood risks are especially problematic. In writing the flood risk section, the plan's authors failed to map New Jersey's hazardous waste management facilities, toxic waste sites, or chemical storage sites, and assess the risk of their releasing contaminants in the event of a flood, according to PEER. The plan also fails to evaluate the future risk of flood for the Barnegat Bay and Raritan Bay areas&mdash;two portions of New Jersey worst-hit by Sandy.</p> <p>The plan "hides the risk of sea level rise by using a scale that makes it impossible to see the impacted areas on the map," PEER evaluators note. And some flood maps in the plan fail to account for projected levels of sea level rise, period.</p> <p>PEER likens these flaws to the issues that spurred the US Department of Housing and Urban Development's inspector general to audit New Jersey's plans to spend $1.5 billion the state has already received in federal recovery aid&mdash;an ongoing probe partially inspired by PEER's complaints. In both cases, Wolfe notes, the plans were written with the help of private contractors who solicited little public input. "The process employed here typifies a governing style that is hyperpoliticized, fiercely insular, and ultimately utterly ineffective," he says.</p> </body></html> Blue Marble Climate Change Climate Desk Science Infrastructure Fri, 21 Mar 2014 15:01:52 +0000 Molly Redden 247961 at Now You Can Get Solar Panels at Best Buy <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body> <div class="inline inline-center" style="display: table; width: 1%"> <img alt="solar costs" class="image" src="/files/solar-costs2_1.jpg"><div class="caption">Tim McDonnell</div> </div> <p>There was an era when putting solar panels on your roof was a time- and money-sucking hassle on par with remodeling your kitchen. But the cost of going solar has been dropping fast. The latest signal of the industry's move into the mainstream came last week, when San Mateo, Calif.-based SolarCity* announced it would begin to sell solar systems out of Best Buy, alongside big-screen TVs and digital cameras.</p> <p>"There are a lot of people out there with unshaded roofs, paying high electricity bills, who just don't know this is an option for them," said Jonathan Bass, SolarCity's vice president of communications. The move into Best Buy "gives us a chance to have that conversation with more people."</p> <p>The company is the <a href="" target="_blank">biggest installer</a> in the country's biggest solar market, California, a state that earlier this month <a href="" target="_blank">broke its all-time solar power production record</a> twice on two consecutive days, churning out enough electricity from solar panels to power roughly 3 million homes. Just since last summer, California's solar production has doubled, according to the California Independent System Operator, which manages the state's electric grid. There's a lot more growth where that came from, Bass said.</p> </body></html> <p style="font-size: 1.083em;"><a href="/blue-marble/2014/03/now-you-can-get-solar-panels-best-buy"><strong><em>Continue Reading &raquo;</em></strong></a></p> Blue Marble Charts Climate Change Climate Desk Energy Tech Top Stories Infrastructure Thu, 20 Mar 2014 17:39:21 +0000 Tim McDonnell 247711 at McDonald's Definition of "Sustainable": Brought to You by the Beef Industry <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body> <p><span style="font-family: Verdana, Arial, sans-serif; line-height: 2em;">In January, McDonald's&nbsp;</span><a href="" style="line-height: 2em;" target="_blank">announced</a><span style="font-family: Verdana, Arial, sans-serif; line-height: 2em;">&nbsp;that it will begin the transition to sustainable beef&nbsp;in&nbsp;2016. The plan was met with <a href="" target="_blank">skepticism</a>,&nbsp;since it </span><a href="" style="line-height: 2em;" target="_blank">didn't actually define "sustainable</a><span style="font-family: Verdana, Arial, sans-serif; line-height: 2em;">." In the weeks that followed, McDonald's continued working with a group called the <a href="" target="_blank">Global Roundtable for&nbsp;Sustainable Beef</a> (</span>GRSB<span style="font-family: Verdana, Arial, sans-serif; line-height: 2em;">) to come up with a working definition of the term, and on Monday, GRSB released a </span><a href="" style="line-height: 2em;" target="_blank">draft</a><span style="font-family: Verdana, Arial, sans-serif; line-height: 2em;"> of its definition for </span><a href="" style="line-height: 2em;" target="_blank">public comment.</a><span style="font-family: Verdana, Arial, sans-serif; line-height: 2em;"> In addition to McDonald's, GRSB's new set of sustainability guidelines will also be implemented by&nbsp;the group's other members, which include Walmart, Darden Restaurants (the parent company of Olive Garden and Red Lobster), Cargill, Tyson Foods, and the pharmaceutical company Merck.</span></p> <p><span style="font-family: Verdana, Arial, sans-serif; line-height: 2em;">Despite its name, the Global Roundtable for Sustainable Beef is not so much an environmental organization as a meat industry group. Its </span><a href="" target="_blank">executive committee </a>includes representatives from McDonald's, Elanco, and the National Cattlemen's Beef Association. Just two environmental groups&mdash;the World Wildlife Fund and Netherlands-based <a href="" target="_blank">Solidaridad</a>&mdash;are part of its executive&nbsp;board.&nbsp;Cameron Bruett, president of GRSB and chief sustainability officer for JBS USA, a beef-processing company, said that McDonald's, along with other members, helped come up with the organization's "sustainability" definition and guidelines.&nbsp;</p> <p>Perhaps unsurprisingly, given the group's leadership, the<span style="font-family: Verdana, Arial, sans-serif; line-height: 2em;"> </span><span style="font-family: Verdana, Arial, sans-serif; line-height: 2em;">GRSB's guidelines are short on specifics. Instead, the group provides a definition for sustainability that is open to <a href="" target="_blank">members'</a> interpretation. The plan says, for example, that sustainable companies must provide "stable, safe employment for at least the minimum wage where applicable" and institute "where applicable, third-party validation of practices by all members of the value chain." But it doesn't doesn't specify which third-party groups should conduct audits, and doesn't explain how workplaces should be monitored to prevent labor violations. In its section on</span><span style="line-height: 2em;"> climate change, </span><span style="font-family: Verdana, Arial, sans-serif; line-height: 2em;">it says that GRSB members should ensure that "</span><span style="font-family: Verdana, Arial, sans-serif; line-height: 2em;">emissions from beef systems, including those from land use conversion, are&nbsp;</span><span style="font-family: Verdana, Arial, sans-serif; line-height: 2em;">minimized</span><span style="font-family: Verdana, Arial, sans-serif; line-height: 2em;">&nbsp;and carbon sequestration is optimized." But it does not include any specific examples of target emissions standards</span> or grazing policies.</p> <p><span style="font-family: Verdana, Arial, sans-serif; line-height: 2em;">Also absent from the plan is any mention of the beef industry's use of antibiotics. In the United States, <a href="" target="_blank">four-fifths</a> of all antibiotics go to livestock operations. McDonald's uses antibiotics to "treat, prevent, and control disease" in its food-producing animals, according to a McDonald's spokesman. </span></p> <p><span style="font-family: Verdana, Arial, sans-serif; line-height: 2em;">Using antibiotics to prevent disease&mdash;rather than only to&nbsp; treat infections&mdash;has been&nbsp;<a href="" target="_blank">criticized</a>&nbsp;by some food-safety experts. But the new plan doesn't recommend that members ditch the practice.</span> "I don't know if there's any justification for banning antibiotics in feed, I know that's popular in some media circles, I haven't seen the scientific evidence," said Bruett. Yet&nbsp;<span style="font-family: Verdana, Arial, sans-serif; line-height: 2em;">studies have shown that antibiotic-resistant bugs can </span><a href="" style="line-height: 2em;" target="_blank">jump</a><span style="font-family: Verdana, Arial, sans-serif; line-height: 2em;">&nbsp;from animals to humans.</span> I<span style="font-family: Verdana, Arial, sans-serif; line-height: 2em;">n February, several experts&nbsp;</span><a href="" style="line-height: 2em;" target="_blank">told&nbsp;<em>Mother Jones</em>&nbsp;</a><span style="font-family: Verdana, Arial, sans-serif; line-height: 2em;">that McDonald's couldn't call its beef plan sustainable&nbsp;unless it addressed the overuse of antibiotics in livestock.</span><span style="font-family: Verdana, Arial, sans-serif; line-height: 2em;"> When asked about whether McDonald's will continue to be given antibiotics under the new sustainability plan, a McDonald's spokesman referred <em>Mother Jones</em> to</span><span style="line-height: 24px;"> </span><a href="" style="line-height: 24px;" target="_blank">this statement</a><span style="line-height: 24px;">&nbsp;from February, saying "</span>We take seriously our ethical responsibility to treat sick animals"&acirc;&#128;&#139; and<span style="line-height: 24px;"> indicated that the company will continue to review its policy.</span></p> <p>GRSB says that the lack of details in the plan is intentional; it "deliberately avoids" metrics that could be used to measure progress in sustainability, instead leaving it up to local roundtables to tailor the recommendations to specific regions. Bruett noted that "<span style="font-family: Verdana, Arial, sans-serif; line-height: 24px;">You could come out with a global standard, but it would simply be ignored, and it wouldn't lead to&nbsp;improvements among members." He adds, "There's all the discussion about sustainability, but it's by people who have very little knowledge or participation in the livestock industry...</span>you'll never achieve [improvement] unless you have producer participation or support.&acirc;&#128;&#139;"&nbsp;</p> <p><span style="font-family: Verdana, Arial, sans-serif; line-height: 2em;">But Dr. David&nbsp;</span>Wallinga<span style="font-family: Verdana, Arial, sans-serif; line-height: 2em;">, the founder of Healthy Food Action, a group of health professionals dedicated to promoting good nutrition, points out that while it's true that one-size-fits all metrics don't always work, without specifics, policies are "largely unenforceable."&nbsp;He adds, </span>"I suppose it's good that McDonald's is taking on the task of setting guidelines for sustainable beef, [but]&nbsp;a&nbsp;few foundational blocks are missing."</p> </body></html> Blue Marble Corporations Food and Ag Top Stories Thu, 20 Mar 2014 10:00:09 +0000 Dana Liebelson 247621 at White House Unveils New Climate Data Project <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body> <p><em>The <a href=";ir=Green&amp;utm_hp_ref=green" target="_blank">story</a> was originally published by </em><a href="" target="_blank">The Huffington Post</a> <em>and is reproduced here as part of the <a href="" target="_blank">Climate Desk</a> collaboration.</em></p> <p>The White House today unveiled a new Climate Data Initiative to make government-held data more available to researchers and businesses, and improve climate change preparedness across the country.</p> <p>President Barack Obama had already <a href="" target="_hplink">mentioned the data initiative</a> in a list of new programs announced in his big climate speech at Georgetown University last June. Today was its official unveiling.</p> <p>One part of the data initiative is a new climate-focused section within the website&mdash;called <a href="" target="_hplink"></a>&mdash;which the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) will run. The climate data site will also offer infrastructure and geographic mapping data sets&mdash;showing bridges, roads, canals, etc.&mdash;from such agencies as the U.S. Geological Survey and the Department of Homeland Security.</p> <p>To solicit ideas from the private sector on how to use all this data to create images and simulations showing coastal hazards, NOAA and NASA are launching a <a href="" target="_hplink">Coastal Flooding Challenge</a>.</p> <p>Making more of this type of information publicly available, the Obama administration announced, will "stimulate innovation and private-sector entrepreneurship in support of national climate-change preparedness."</p> <p>According to the announcement, several companies&mdash;including Intel, Google, Microsoft and Esri (which creates geographic information systems software)&mdash;have committed to create new mapping software, applications and other technological tools for visualizing and preparing for climate-related risks. Nonprofits, academic institutions and local groups are also providing technological support.</p> <p>In a White House blog post accompanying the announcement, chief presidential science adviser John Holdren and White House senior counselor John Podesta called the initiative an "ambitious" effort to make government data available to the private and philanthropic sectors.</p> <p>The Climate Data Initiative, they wrote, "will help create easy-to-use tools for regional planners, farmers, hospitals, and businesses across the country&mdash;and empower America&rsquo;s communities to prepare themselves for the future."</p> </body></html> Blue Marble Climate Change Climate Desk Top Stories Infrastructure Wed, 19 Mar 2014 17:24:17 +0000 Kate Sheppard 247831 at Your Coffee Pods' Dirty Secret <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body> <p>Coffee brewing is in the midst of a revolution, and I'm not talking about <a href="">the AeroPress</a>. It comes in the form of a small 2-by-2-inch single-serving pod that requires a special <a href="" target="_blank">machine</a>. Keurig, owned by Vermont-based Green Mountain Coffee, makes the most popular pods, called "K-Cups." At the press of a button, the Keurig brewer punctures a small hole into the aluminum lid of an individual plastic cup filled with grounds, flushes it with steaming water, and, voil&agrave;! Out comes one hot cup of joe.&nbsp;&nbsp;</p> <p>When Keurig launched its specialized brewing system in 1998, it might have come off as a bit niche. Not anymore. According to <a href="">a survey by the National Coffee Association</a>, nearly 1 in 5 adults drank single-cup-brewed coffee yesterday, making it the second most popular way to brew after the traditional drip methods&mdash;and far more popular than espresso machines.</p> <p>The single-serve method has experienced impressive growth: <a href="">According to the <em>Seattle Times</em></a>, while US consumers bought $132 million worth of coffee pods in 2008, they forked over $3.1 billion for them last year, compared to $6 billion for roasted coffee and $2.5 billion in instant coffee. Keurig also has similar brewing systems and pods for tea and iced beverages, and will roll out a system for Campbell's soup later this year.</p> <p>What Keurig customers love, proclaims Green Mountain's <a href="" target="_blank">2013 annual report</a>, is the system's "Quality, Convenience, and Choice"&mdash;and let's be real, it's convenience that trumps for most busy Americans. Keurig systems take under a minute to brew coffee, and cleaning them is laughably easy: Just chuck the used coffee pod in the trash, then press a button, and a "cleansing brew" shoots hot water through the system to clear it of residue.</p> <p>But critics warn that the packaging needed for these systems comes with environmental and health-related costs. By making each pod so individualized, and so easy to dispose of, you must also exponentially increase the packaging&mdash;packaging that ultimately ends up in landfills. (And that's to say nothing of the plastic and metal brewing systems, which if broken, aren't that easy to recycle either.)</p> <p>Journalist Murray Carpenter estimates <a href="" target="_blank">in his new book, <em>Caffeinated</em>,</a> that a row of all the K-Cups produced in 2011 would circle the globe more than six times. To update that analogy: In 2013, Green Mountain produced 8.3 billion K-Cups, enough to wrap around the equator 10.5 times. If Green Mountain aims to have "a Keurig System on every counter," as the company states in its latest annual report, that's a hell of a lot of little cups.</p> <div class="inline inline-center" style="display: table; width: 1%"><img alt="" class="image" src="/files/KCupsEarth3_0.jpg"></div> <p>Green Mountain only makes 5 percent of its current cups out of recyclable plastic. The rest of them are made up of a #7 composite plastic, which is nonrecyclable in most places. And for the small few that are recyclable, the aluminum lid must be separated from the cup, which also must be emptied of its wet grounds, for the materials to make it through the recycling process. Even then, chances are the pod won't be recycled because it's too small, says Darby Hoover, senior resource specialist at the National Resources Defense Council.</p> <p>Keurig just released <a href="">a sustainability report</a> announcing that the company plans to make all coffee pods recyclable by 2020, among other ecofriendly efforts. The company says it's evaluating the type of plastic used in the cups, exploring potential biodegradable and compostable packaging, and coming up with an easier way for customers to easily prepare them for recycling.</p> <p>Some competitors already have recyclable or biodegradable versions of this single-serve pod; Nespresso's lid and pod is made entirely from aluminum. A Canadian brand, Canterbury Coffee, makes a version <a href="">that it says is 92 percent biodegradable</a> (everything save for the nylon filter can break down). Finding a substitute is an interesting challenge, says Keurig spokeswoman Sandy Yusen, because coffee is perishable, and so the material used must prevent light, oxygen, and moisture from degrading the coffee.</p> <p>Another reason to look beyond plastic is a concern with what could leach out of the material when heated. Yusen confirmed that the #7 plastic used in K-Cups is BPA-free, safe, and "meets or exceeds applicable FDA standards." But new evidence suggests that even non-BPA plastics can test positive for estrogenic activity. (Our "<a href="">Frightening Field Guide to Common Plastics</a>" contains more information about this.)</p> <p>"No. 7 plastic means 'other,'" says the NRDC's Hoover. "You don't know what it is." One concern with this plastic mix is the presence of polystyrene, containing the chemical styrene, which Hoover warns is especially worrisome for workers. A <a href="">possible carcinogen</a>, styrene <a href=";tid=74">can wreak havoc on the nervous systems</a> of those handling it, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The chemical also shows up in tobacco smoke and home copy machines, and in the Styrofoam used in food containers.</p> <p>Keurig would not tell me what types of plastic go into its #7 blend, saying the information was proprietary, nor would it confirm or deny the presence of polystyrene in the mix.</p> <p>Keurig does make <a href="">a plastic and mesh reusable coffee filter</a>. But why use a filter that necessitates cleaning&mdash;and also requires a fancy-schmancy brewing system&mdash;over the traditional method? As Hoover points out, "you're essentially giving up the convenience of the little teeny tiny cup."</p> <p>It's not just convenience that's sacrificed. By my calculations, a K-Cup-worth of coffee will run up your tab way more than grounds and a filter (not including the cost of the brewer); a standard pod of Green Mountain coffee costs 68 cents, while one cup of the company's Vermont Blend brewed the traditional way costs about 44 cents, filter included. The <em>New York Times</em> did <a href="" target="_blank">a more comprehensive analysis</a> of the actual price of single-brew coffee, and determined that it ends up costing more than $50 a pound, even for standard brands like Folgers, compared to the less than $20 you can expect to pay for a bag of roasted beans. Call me a cheapskate, but I'll stick to freshly ground coffee that doesn't require a bulky brewer and billions of plastic pods to be delicious.</p> <p class="inline-credit"><a href="" target="_blank">Earth</a> designed by <a href="" target="_blank">Ben King</a> from The Noun Project.</p> <p class="inline-credit"><a href="" target="_blank">Coffee capsule</a> designed by <a href="" target="_blank">Stefan Brechb&uuml;hl</a> from The Noun Project.</p> </body></html> Blue Marble Econundrums Food and Ag Health Top Stories Coffee Wed, 19 Mar 2014 10:00:19 +0000 Maddie Oatman 247576 at Was the Los Angeles Earthquake Caused by Fracking Techniques? <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body> <div class="inline inline-center" style="display: table; width: 1%"> <img alt="" class="image" src="/files/M4.4_Earthquake_3.17.gif"><div class="caption"> <strong>The epicenter of today's LA quake was eight miles from oil waste injection wells. </strong>Kyle Ferrar, FracTracker Alliance</div> </div> <p>Was the 4.4-magnitude earthquake that rattled Los Angeles on Monday morning caused by fracking methods? It's hard to say, but what's clear from the above map, made by Kyle Ferrar of the <a href="" target="_blank">FracTracker Alliance</a>, is that the quake's epicenter was just eight miles from a disposal well where oil and gas wastewater is being injected underground at high pressure.</p> <p>Don Drysdale, spokesman for the state agency that oversees California Geological Survey, told me that state seismologists don't think that the injection well was close enough to make a difference (and the agency has also raised the possibility that Monday's quake could have been a <a href=",0,2194994.story#ixzz2wGV0UIog" target="_blank">foreshock</a> for a larger one). But environmental groups aren't so sure.</p> <p>In other states, injection wells located 7.5 miles from a fault have been shown to induce seismic activity, points out Andrew Grinberg, the oil and gas project manager for Clean Water Action. "We are not saying that this quake is a result of an injection," he adds, "but with so many faults all over California, we need a better understanding of how, when, and where induced seismicity can occur with relation to injection."</p> <p><a href="" target="_blank">"Shaky Ground</a>," a new report from Clean Water Action, Earthworks, and the Center for Biological Diversity, argues that the close proximity of such wells to active faults could increase the state's risk of earthquakes. According to the report, more than half of the state's permitted oil wastewater injection wells are located less than 10 miles from an active fault, and 87 of them, or about 6 percent, are located within a mile of an active fault.</p> <p>Scientists have long known that injecting large amounts of wastewater underground can cause earthquakes by increasing pressure and reducing friction along fault lines. One of the best known early examples took place in 1961, when the US Army disposed of millions of gallons of hazardous waste by injecting it 12,000 feet beneath the surface of the Rocky Mountain Arsenal near Denver. The influx caused more than 1,500 earthquakes over a five year period in an area not known for seismic activity; the worst among them registered at more than 5.0 on the Richter scale and caused $500,000 in damage. Geologists later discovered that the Army well had been drilled into an unknown fault.</p> <p>As Michael Behar <a href="" target="_blank">detailed in-depth last year</a> in <em>Mother Jones</em>, fracking is now a leading suspect for a spate of serious earthquakes in places that hardly ever see them, such as Oklahoma, where in 2011, a 5.7-magnitude temblor destroyed 14 homes and baffled seismologists.</p> <p>"In some locations of the US, the disposal of wastewater associated with oil/gas production, including hydraulic fracturing operations, appears to have triggered some low-magnitude seismic activity," concedes Drysdale, the Geological Survey spokesman. But in California, he adds, oil companies are required to evaluate surrounding geology before disposing of wastewater underground, and can't inject it at dangerously high pressures.</p> <p>Yet Grinberg, a coauthor of the "Shaky Ground" report, says that the existing regulations don't go far enough now that quake-prone California is <a href="" target="_blank">poised for a fracking boom</a>. Though he'd like to see a moratorium on fracking while the risks are studied, he wants any eventual regulations to at least require seismic monitoring at or near injection wells and to look at the cumulative earthquake risk of entire oil fields.</p> </body></html> Blue Marble Maps Energy Top Stories fracking Mon, 17 Mar 2014 23:44:22 +0000 Josh Harkinson 247651 at Science Deniers Are Freaking Out About "Cosmos" <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body> <p>If you think the first episode of the new Fox <em>Cosmos</em> series was <a href="" target="_blank">controversial</a> (with its relatively minor mentions of climate change, evolution, and the Big Bang), <a href="" target="_blank">Sunday night's show</a> threw down the gauntlet. Pretty much the entire episode was devoted to the topic of evolution, and the vast profusion of evidence (especially <a href="" target="_blank">genetic evidence</a>) showing that it is indeed the explanation behind all life on Earth. At one point, host Neil deGrasse Tyson stated it as plainly as you possibly can: "The theory of evolution, like the theory of gravity, is a scientific fact." (You can watch the full episode <a href="" target="_blank">here</a>.)</p> <p>Not surprisingly, those who deny the theory of evolution were not happy with this. Indeed, the science denial crowd hasn't been happy with <em>Cosmos</em> in general. Here are some principal lines of attack:</p> <p><strong>Denying the Big Bang: </strong>In the first episode of <em>Cosmos</em>, titled "Standing Up in the Milky Way," Tyson dons shades just before witnessing the Big Bang. You know, the start of everything. Some creationists, though, don't like the Big Bang; at Ken Ham's <em>Answers in Genesis</em>, a <a href="" target="_blank">critique of <em>Cosmos</em></a> asserts that "the big bang model is unable to explain many scientific observations, but this is of course not mentioned."</p> <div class="inline inline-center" style="display: table; width: 1%"> <img alt="" class="image" src="/files/Big%20Bang%20Cropped.jpg"><div class="caption">Fox</div> </div> <p>Alas, this creationist critique seems very poorly timed: A <a href=";_r=0" target="_blank">major new scientific discovery</a>, just described in detail in the<em> New York Times</em>, has now provided <a href="" target="_blank">"smoking gun" evidence</a> for "<a href="" target="_blank">inflation</a>," a crucial component of our understanding of the stunning happenings just after the Big Bang. Using a special telescope to examine the cosmic microwave background radiation (which has been dubbed the "<a href="" target="_blank">afterglow</a>" of the Big Bang), researchers at the South Pole detected "<a href="" target="_blank">direct evidence</a>" of the previously theoretical <a href=";_r=0" target="_blank">gravitational waves</a> that are believed to have originated in the Big Bang and caused an incredibly sudden and dramatic inflation of the universe. (For an easy to digest discussion, Phil Plait <a href="" target="_blank">has more</a>.)</p> <p><strong>Denying evolution:</strong> Sunday's episode <em>of Cosmos</em> was all about evolution. It closely followed the rhetorical strategy of Charles Darwin's world-changing 1859 book, <em>On the Origin of Species</em>, beginning with an example of "artificial selection" by breeders (Darwin used pigeons, <em>Cosmos</em> used domestic dogs) to get us ready to appreciate the far vaster power of <em>natural</em> selection. It employed Darwin's favorite metaphor: the "tree of life," an analogy that helps us see how all organisms are living on different branches of the same hereditary tree. In the episode, Tyson also refuted one of the creationist's <a href="" target="_blank">favorite canards</a>: the idea that complex organs, like the eye, could not have been produced through evolution.</p> <div class="inline inline-center" style="display: table; width: 1%"> <img alt="" class="image" src="/files/Cosmos%20Tree%20of%20Life%20Cropped.jpg"><div class="caption"> <strong>The "tree of life" on <em>Cosmos </em></strong>Fox</div> </div> <p>Over at the pro-"intelligent design" Discovery Institute, they're not happy. Senior fellow David Klinghoffer <a href="" target="_blank">writes</a> that the latest <em>Cosmos </em>episode "[extrapolated] shamelessly, promiscuously from artificial selection (dogs from wolves) to minor stuff like the color of a polar bear's fur to the development of the human eye." In a much more elaborate <a href="" target="_blank">attempted takedown</a>, meanwhile, the institute's Casey Luskin accuses Tyson and <em>Cosmos</em> of engaging in "attempts to persuade people of both evolutionary scientific views and larger materialistic evolutionary beliefs, not just by the force of the evidence, but by rhetoric and emotion, and especially by leaving out important contrary arguments and evidence." Luskin goes on to contend that there is something wrong with the idea of the "tree of life." Tell that to the scientists involved in the <a href="" target="_blank">Open Tree of Life</a> project, which plans to produce "the first online, comprehensive first-draft tree of all 1.8 million named species, accessible to both the public and scientific communities." Precisely how to reconstruct every last evolutionary relationship may still be an open scientific question, but the idea of common ancestry, the core of evolution (represented conceptually by a tree of life), is not.</p> <p><strong>Denying climate change: </strong>Thus far, <em>Cosmos </em>has referred to climate change in each of its two opening episodes, but has not gone into any depth on the matter. Perhaps that's for a later episode. But in the meantime, it seems some conservatives are already bashing Tyson as a global warming proponent. <a href="" target="_blank">Writing at</a> the Media Research Center's <em>Newsbusters</em> blog, Jeffrey Meyer critiques a recent Tyson appearance on <em>Late Night With Seth Myers</em>. "Meyers and deGrasse Tyson chose to take a cheap shot at religious people and claim they don't believe in science i.e. liberal causes like global warming," writes Meyer.</p> <p>Actually, as Tyson explained on our <a href="" target="_blank"><em>Inquiring Minds</em> podcast</a>, <em>Cosmos</em> is certainly not anti-religion. As for characterizing global warming as simply a "liberal cause": In a <a href="" target="_blank">now famous study</a> finding that 97 percent of scientific studies (that bother to take a position on the matter) agree with the idea of human-caused global warming, researchers reviewed 12,000 scientific abstracts published between the years 1991 and 2011. In other words, this is a field in which a very large volume of <em>science </em>is being published. That hardly sounds like an advocacy endeavor.</p> <p>On our most recent episode of the <em>Inquiring Minds</em> podcast, Tyson explains why he doesn't debate science deniers; you can listen here (interview starts around minute 13):</p> <p><iframe frameborder="no" height="166" scrolling="no" src="" width="100%"></iframe></p> </body></html> Blue Marble Climate Change Climate Desk Science Top Stories Mon, 17 Mar 2014 21:53:49 +0000 Chris Mooney 247601 at These Pictures of Spring Flowers Will Melt Your Frozen Heart <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body> <div class="inline inline-center" style="display: table; width: 1%"><img alt="" class="image" src="/files/800px-Arenaria_congesta_%285454095134%29.jpg"></div> <p>Climate change might have had a hand in the <a href="" target="_blank">exceptionally cold winter</a> much of the country just suffered through, but on the upside, there's new evidence that it's sending spring in early, and giving us more time with wildflowers.</p> <p>That's the conclusion of one of the most exhaustive surveys ever conducted on flowering "phenology," the term scientists use for the timing of seasonal events (such as the day the first migratory birds arrive in a given place or, in this case, the first day flowers open). The <a href="" target="_blank">study</a> was published today in the <em>Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. </em>From 1974 to 2012, biologist David Inouye* of the University of Maryland took a team to Colorado just as the winter frost was beginning to thaw, and spent the spring and summer documenting when 60 common plant species had their first, last, and peak (i.e., the most individual plants) flowering.</p> <div class="inline inline-center" style="display: table; width: 1%"><img alt="" class="image" src="/files/720px-Cardamine_cordifolia_flowers1_1.jpg"></div> <p>In all but one of the species, the date of first flowering moved incrementally forward each year, by more than a month in at least one case. You can see a sampling of the flowers in these photos, along with how much earlier they are flowering these days compared to 39 years ago, when the study began. Overall, said study co-author Paul CaraDonna, the ecological onset of spring advanced by about 25 days, from mid-May to late April, mostly thanks to warming temperatures (about 0.7 degrees F per decade here) that melted snow early.</p> <p>"With these changes in climate, the plants are coming out a lot sooner," CaraDonna said.</p> <div class="inline inline-center" style="display: table; width: 1%"><img alt="" class="image" src="/files/800px-Claytonia_lanceolata_%283532510344%29.jpg"></div> <p>In addition, CaraDonna said, last flowerings are happening later in the fall, so that the overall flower season is now about 35 days longer than it was 39 years ago.</p> <p>Scientists have known for years that climate change messes with nature's datebook, throwing off plants (including flowers and <a href="" target="_blank">trees</a>), animals (<a href="" target="_blank">from birds to plankton</a>), and even <a href="" target="_blank">fungi</a> that rely on clues like temperature and weather to know when to breed, migrate, come out of hibernation, and whatever else they need to do. In fact, one of the first great phenologists was Henry David Thoreau, whose notes on the first flowering of some 500 plant species around Walden Pond were <a href="" target="_blank">recently tapped</a> by a pair of Boston University biologists to inform modern-day research, which found flowering times for these plants to have advanced an average of 10 days.</p> <div class="inline inline-center" style="display: table; width: 1%"><img alt="" class="image" src="/files/3626416094_b4e2b3d571_o_0.jpg"></div> <p>What makes this new research unique is not only the sheer size of the dataset, but that it tracks the flowers through the spring and summer until the frost comes back in the fall. Knowing the date of first flowering is important, CaraDonna said, but limited.</p> <p>"It's like if the cover of a book looks cool, but you don't know what the rest of the book is about," he said. "We're really curious about how these patterns contribute to other patterns in the community that you can't see if you just look at first flowering."</p> <div class="inline inline-center" style="display: table; width: 1%"><img alt="" class="image" src="/files/3744492321_a4a30082da_b_0.jpg"></div> <p>In other words, flower phenology has implications beyond making nice company for hikers. The early appearance of flowers increases competition amongst them for pollinators, like bees, which can in turn get thrown off by unusual dining options, and the effects cascade up the ecological pyramid from there. In the biological marketplace, "things that used to be on sale at different times are now on sale together," said co-author Amy Iler.</p> <p>CaraDonna said the next step in the study is to look more closely at how the shifted timing of flowers can destabilize an ecosystem, but even now he's confident the impacts are underway: "If you change this much of an ecological community, there will be consequences."</p> <div class="inline inline-center" style="display: table; width: 1%"><img alt="" class="image" src="/files/Collomia_linearis_%283727312182%29.jpg"></div> <div class="inline inline-center" style="display: table; width: 1%"><img alt="" class="image" src="/files/Erigeron_speciosus_01.jpg"></div> <div class="inline inline-center" style="display: table; width: 1%"><img alt="" class="image" src="/files/Erythronium_grandiflorum_-_Flickr_003.jpg"></div> <div class="inline inline-center" style="display: table; width: 1%"><img alt="" class="image" src="/files/Vicia_americana_%287497332530%29.jpg"></div> <div class="inline inline-center rteleft" style="display: table; width: 1%;">&nbsp;</div> <div class="inline inline-center rteleft" style="display: table; width: 1%;">&nbsp;</div> <p><em>* Correction: An earlier version of this story incorrectly referred to biologist David Inouye as "Daniel Inouye." We regret the error.</em></p> <p><em>Photo credits:</em></p> <p><a href="" target="_blank">Lanceleaf springbeauty: Wikimedia Commons</a></p> <p><a href="" target="_blank">Glacier lily: Wikimedia Commons</a></p> <p><a href="" target="_blank">Heartleaf bittercress: Wikimedia Commons</a></p> <p><a href="" target="_blank">Western monkshood: Eric Hunt/Flickr</a></p> <p><a href="" target="_blank">Slenderleaf collomia: Wikimedia Commons</a></p> <p><a href="" target="_blank">American vetch: Wikimedia Commons</a></p> <p><a href="" target="_blank">Ballhead sandwort: Wikimedia Commons</a></p> <p><a href="" target="_blank">Aspen fleabane: Wikimedia Commons</a></p> <p><a href="" target="_blank">Creeping mahonia: Matt Lavin/Flickr</a></p> </body></html> Blue Marble Photo Essays Climate Change Climate Desk Science Top Stories Mon, 17 Mar 2014 19:00:06 +0000 Tim McDonnell 247506 at California Just Had Its Warmest Winter on Record <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body> <div class="inline inline-center" style="display: table; width: 1%"> <img alt="temperature map" class="image" src="/files/201312-201402_0.png"><div class="caption">NOAA</div> </div> <p>This winter has been a tale of two Americas: The Midwest is just beginning to thaw out from a battery of epic cold snaps, while Californians might feel that they pretty much skipped winter altogether. In fact, <a href="" target="_blank">new NOAA data</a> reveal that California's winter (December through February) was the warmest in the <a href=";parameter=tmp&amp;state=4&amp;div=0&amp;year=2014&amp;month=2#ranks-form" target="_blank">119-year record</a>, 4.4 degrees Fahrenheit above the 20th century average.</p> <p>The map above ranks every state's winter temperature average relative to its own historical record low (in other words, relative to itself and not to other states). Low numbers indicate that the state was unusually cold; higher numbers mean it was exceptionally warm. As you can see, the Midwest was much colder than average, while the West was hotter than average (despite a season-long kerfluffle about polar vortexes, the East Coast wasn't exceptionally cold, after all).</p> <p>As we've reported, there's currently a scientific debate over whether climate change in the Arcitc is making the <a href="" target="_blank">jet stream "drunk,"</a> and thereby increasing the likelihood of extreme cold spells; the exact role of climate change in California's record heat is <a href="" target="_blank">still unclear</a>.</p> <p>As anyone working in <a href="" target="_blank">California's farming industry</a> could confirm, the state also had an exceptionally dry winter, the third-lowest precipitation on record. Other interesting facts from the NOAA report:</p> <ul> <li>At the beginning of March, 91 percent of the Great Lakes remained frozen, the second-largest ice cover since record keeping began in 1973.</li> <li>With reservoirs in central and northern California at 36 to 74 percent of their historical average levels, these regions would need 18 inches of rain over the next three months to end the drought, much more than the state normally gets in that time period.</li> <li>Alaska's winter was the eighth-warmest on record, 6.2 degrees F over the 1971-2000 average.</li> </ul> </body></html> Blue Marble Maps Climate Change Climate Desk Science Thu, 13 Mar 2014 18:26:04 +0000 Tim McDonnell 247441 at WATCH LIVE: Is a Carbon Tax a Good Idea? Just Ask British Columbia <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body> <div id="se_video">&nbsp;</div> <script type="text/javascript" src=""></script><script type="text/javascript">// <![CDATA[ jwplayer('se_video').setup({ 'flashplayer': '', 'autostart': 'false', 'provider': 'rtmp', 'streamer': 'rtmp://', 'file': '', 'modes': [ { 'type': 'flash', 'src': '' }, { 'type': 'html5', 'config': { 'file': '', 'provider': 'video' } } ], 'bufferlength': '5', 'image': '', 'width': '630', 'height': '354' });// ]]> </script><div style="width:630px; text-align:center;">6:30 pm - 8:00 pm PT, Thursday, March 27, 2014<br> Queen Elizabeth Theatre Salons, Vancouver<br><a href="" style="margin-top:20px;"><font color="red">Android? Click Here</font></a> </div> <p>In the US context, the idea of putting a tax on carbon is going nowhere fast. While the policy has been championed by <a href=";_type=blogs&amp;_r=0" target="_blank">liberal legislators</a> and by a few conservative apostates, like former South Carolina <a href="" target="_blank">Rep. Bob Inglis</a>, mainstream Republican sentiment remains opposed to climate action. For the moment, many lawmakers remain <a href="" target="_blank">too busy denying</a> the reality of human-caused climate change.</p> <p>Cross our northwestern border, though, and a carbon tax isn't just an idea, it's a reality. Five years ago, the Canadian province of British Columbia <a href="" target="_blank">joined a small group</a> of local and national governments (still fewer than 20 overall) that have created a carbon tax&mdash;setting a price on carbon in an effort to reduce emissions. Today, the tax brings in $1 billion a year in revenue that is returned to British Columbia taxpayers. Assessing the tax's impact on overall greenhouse gas emissions is a somewhat complicated endeavor, given a number of confounding factors (like the economic collapse of 2008-2009), but it's clear that when it comes to the use of carbon-intensive petroleum products like gasoline and diesel, there has been a marked decline since the year 2008 in British Columbia. In the first four years of the carbon tax, sales of refined petroleum products per capita in BC <a href="" target="_blank">declined by 15 percent</a>, according to the Sightline Institute, substantially more than the decline in Canada as a whole.*</p> <p>At a time when carbon tax policies appear increasingly enticing (especially in light of the failure of cap-and-trade in the US), what can British Columbia's experience teach us about the prospects for solutions to climate change? How is the tax working? How do British Columbians feel about it? And has it prompted a desired growth in the clean energy industry?</p> <p>To delve into these questions,&nbsp;<a href="" target="_blank">Climate Desk</a>, <a href="" target="_blank">Climate Access</a>, and <a href="" target="_blank">Bloomberg BNA</a> are partnering to present "The Carbon Tax Return:&nbsp;Lessons Learned From British Columbia's First Five Years of Taxing Emissions." This distinguished panel, preceded by a cocktail reception, will take place on <strong>Thursday, March 27, at the Queen Elizabeth Theatre, Salon C</strong> in downtown Vancouver, with doors opening at 5:30pm PDT. For tickets, <a href="" target="_blank">click here</a>. To join the event on Facebook, <a href="" target="_blank">click here</a>. The event will also be livestreamed at this page starting at <span data-term="goog_1670382642" tabindex="0">6:00pm PDT</span>.</p> <p>Featured speakers include: Spencer Chandra Herbert, a member of BC's legislative assembly and the New Democratic Party's designated voice on the environment; Merran Smith from <a href="" target="_blank">Clean Energy Canada</a>; and Ross Beaty the chairman of <a href="" target="_blank">Alterra Power Corp</a>. Best-selling science writer and <a href="" target="_blank">Climate Desk Live</a> host <a href="" target="_blank">Chris Mooney</a> will lead these policymakers and thought leaders in discussing the innovations, pitfalls, and promise of the first five years of the carbon tax in British Columbia.&nbsp;</p> <p><strong><strong>Speaker Biographies: </strong></strong></p> <p><strong>Spencer Chandra Herbert, Environment Critic and Member of the BC Legislative Assembly</strong></p> <p>Spencer Chandra Herbert was re-elected to represent Vancouver West-End in 2013.&nbsp;He is the official opposition environment critic and previously served as the opposition voice on Tourism, Arts, and Culture and the BC Lottery Corporation and Gaming Policy. Spencer served as an elected Vancouver park board commissioner from 2005-2008, where he worked to improve environmental sustainability in Vancouver's Parks and accessibility to programs for youth and low-income people.&nbsp;</p> <p><strong>Merran Smith, Director, Clean Energy Canada</strong></p> <p>Merran&nbsp;Smith&nbsp;is the director of Clean Energy Canada at Tides Canada. She leads a team working to diversify Canada&rsquo;s energy systems, cut carbon pollution, and reduce the nation's fossil-fuel dependence, and she writes and speaks extensively on the opportunities for Canada in the global low-carbon economy.</p> <p><strong>Ross Beaty, Chairman Alterra Power Corp.</strong></p> <p>Ross J. Beaty is a geologist and resource company entrepreneur with more than 40 years of experience in the international minerals and renewable energy industries. In early 2008, Mr. Beaty founded Magma Energy Corp. to focus on international geothermal energy development. In 2011, Magma and Plutonic Power merged to create Alterra Power Corp. Mr. Beaty also founded and currently serves as chairman of Pan American Silver Corp., one of the world's leading silver producers.</p> <p><strong>Jeremy Hainsworth</strong></p> <p>Jeremy Hainsworth is a contributor internationally to Bloomberg BNA (BBNA) and the Associated Press.&nbsp;Jeremy has worked with BBNA for over three years on legal, regulatory, and policy issues in western Canada for BBNA's wide-ranging stable of international publications.</p> <p><em>* A previous version of this article stated that British Columbia's greenhouse gas emissions per capita had declined by 10 percent from 2008-2011 after the adoption of the carbon tax, compared with a decline of only 1 percent for the rest of Canada. Those <a href=";display" target="_blank">figures</a> did not include emissions from a variety of sectors, however, including electricity and heat generation. This article has been revised for clarification.</em></p> </body></html> Blue Marble Climate Change Climate Desk Energy Top Stories climate desk live Mon, 10 Mar 2014 18:27:28 +0000 Chris Mooney 247126 at Here Are 5 Infuriating Examples of Facts Making People Dumber <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body> <p>On Monday, I <a href="" target="_blank">reported on</a> the latest study to take a bite out of the idea of human rationality. In a <a href="" target="_blank">paper</a> just published in <em>Pediatrics</em>, Brendan Nyhan of Dartmouth University and his colleagues showed that presenting people with information confirming the safety of vaccines triggered a "backfire effect," in which people who already distrusted vaccines actually became <em>less</em> likely to say they would vaccinate their kids.</p> <p>Unfortunately, this is hardly the only example of such a frustrating response being documented by researchers. Nyhan and his coauthor, Jason Reifler of the University of Exeter, have captured several others, as have other researchers. Here are some examples:</p> <p><strong>1. Tax cuts increase revenue? </strong>In a <a href="" target="_blank">2010 study</a>, Nyhan and Reifler asked people to read a fake newspaper article containing a real quotation of George W. Bush, in which the former president asserted that his tax cuts "helped increase revenues to the Treasury." In some versions of the article, this <a href=";id=507" target="_blank">false claim</a> was then debunked by economic evidence: A correction appended to the end of the article stated that in fact, the Bush tax cuts "were followed by an unprecedented three-year decline in nominal tax revenues, from $2 trillion in 2000 to $1.8 trillion in 2003." The study found that conservatives who read the correction were <em>twice as likely </em>to believe Bush's claim was true as were conservatives who did not read the correction.</p> <p><strong>2. Death panels!</strong> Another notorious political falsehood is Sarah Palin's claim that Obamacare would create "death panels." To test whether they could undo the damage caused by this highly influential morsel of misinformation, Nyhan and his colleagues had study subjects read an article about the "death panels" claim, which in some cases ended with a <a href="" target="_blank">factual correction</a> explaining that "nonpartisan health care experts have concluded that Palin is wrong." Among survey respondents who were very pro-Palin and who had a high level of political knowledge, the correction actually made them <em>more likely </em>to wrongly embrace the false "death panels" theory.</p> <p><strong>3. Obama is a Muslim! </strong>And if that's still not enough, <a href="" target="_blank">yet another Nyhan and Reifler study</a> examined the persistence of the "President Obama is a Muslim" myth. In this case, respondents watched a video of President Obama denying that he is a Muslim or even stating affirmatively, "I am a Christian." Once again, the correction&mdash;uttered in this case by the president himself&mdash;often backfired in the study, making belief in the falsehood that Obama is a Muslim worse among certain study participants. What's more, the backfire effect was particularly notable when the researchers administering the study were white. When they were nonwhite, subjects were more willing to change their minds, an effect the researchers explained by noting that "social desirability concerns may affect how respondents behave when asked about sensitive topics." In other words, in the company of someone from a different race than their own, people tend to shift their responses based upon what they think that person's worldview might be.</p> <p><strong>4. The alleged Iraq-Al Qaeda link. </strong>In a <a href="" target="_blank">2009 study</a>, Monica Prasad of Northwestern University and her colleagues directly challenged Republican partisans about their false belief that Iraq and Al Qaeda collaborated in the 9/11 attacks, a common charge during the Bush years. The so-called challenge interviews included citing the findings of the 9/11 Commission and even a <a href="" target="_blank">statement by George W. Bush</a>, asserting that his administration had "never said that the 9/11 attacks were orchestrated between Saddam and Al Qaeda." Despite these facts, only 1 out of 49 partisans changed his or her mind after the factual correction. Forty-one of the partisans "deflected" the information in a variety of ways, and seven actually denied holding the belief in the first place (although they clearly had).</p> <p><strong>5. Global warming.</strong> On the climate issue, there does not appear to be any study that clearly documents a backfire effect. However, in a <a href="" target="_blank">2011 study</a>, researchers at American and Ohio State universities found a closely related "boomerang effect." In the experiment, research subjects from upstate New York read news articles about how climate change might increase the spread of West Nile Virus, which were accompanied by the pictures of the faces of farmers who might be affected. But in one case, the people were said to be farmers in upstate New York (in other words, victims who were quite socially similar to the research subjects); in the other, they were described as farmers from either Georgia or from France (much more distant victims). The intent of the article was to raise concern about the health consequences of climate change, but when Republicans read the article about the more distant farmers, their support for action on climate change <em>decreased</em>, a pattern that was stronger as their Republican partisanship increased. (When Republicans read about the proximate New York farmers, there was no boomerang effect, but they did not become more supportive of climate action either.)</p> <p>Together, all of these studies support the <a href="" target="_blank">theory of "motivated reasoning"</a>: The idea that our prior beliefs, commitments, and emotions drive our responses to new information, such that when we are faced with facts that deeply challenge these commitments, we fight back against them to defend our identities. So next time you feel the urge to argue back against some idiot on the internet&hellip;pause, take a deep breath, and realize not only that arguing might not do any good, but that in fact, it might very well backfire.</p> </body></html> Blue Marble Climate Change Climate Desk Economy Health Care Science Wed, 05 Mar 2014 11:00:09 +0000 Chris Mooney 246806 at