Blue Marble Feed | Mother Jones http://www.motherjones.com/Blogs/2007/11 http://www.motherjones.com/files/motherjonesLogo_google_206X40.png Mother Jones logo http://www.motherjones.com en The World’s Largest Coal Company Just Filed for Bankruptcy http://www.motherjones.com/blue-marble/2016/04/peabody-coal-bankrupt <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" "http://www.w3.org/TR/REC-html40/loose.dtd"> <html><body><p>These are truly dark days for coal. The year started off badly for the industry when Arch Coal, the second-biggest coal producer in the United States, filed for bankruptcy. That announcement was <a href="http://www.motherjones.com/environment/2016/01/coal-industry-terrible-no-good-very-bad-year" target="_blank">swiftly followed by more</a>: China said it plans to close 1,000 coal mines, US coal production dipped to its lowest level in three decades, and the Obama administration <a href="http://www.motherjones.com/environment/2016/01/obamas-latest-climate-crusade" target="_blank">laid out plans</a> to raise the cost coal mining on federal land.</p> <p>On Wednesday, the slow and steady die-off of coal claimed its biggest victim. Peabody Energy, the world's largest coal company, filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in the US. The company won't close, but will have to reorganize and borrow new funds to pay off its existing debts. <a href="http://www.reuters.com/article/us-peabody-energy-bankruptcy-idUSKCN0XA0E7" target="_blank">According to Reuters</a>, the bankruptcy is the end result of crushing debt brought on by Peabody's multi-billion dollar acquisition in 2011 of a major Australian coal producer. That move was meant to offer Peabody greater access to Asian markets but, because of plummeting prices and demand, turned out to be a devastating financial burden.</p> <p>Conditions at home in the US <a href="http://www.motherjones.com/environment/2015/04/mitch-mcconnell-war-coal" target="_blank">certainly didn't help</a>. In addition to new climate change regulations from Obama that are designed to severely curtail the nation's coal consumption, coal has been getting hammered by competition from natural gas made cheap by the fracking boom. The Peabody announcement means that companies accounting for nearly half of the country's coal production have filed for bankruptcy in the current downturn, Reuters reported.</p> <p>Of course, the coal industry isn't going away anytime soon:</p> <blockquote> <p>While coal use has also stalled globally, largely because of China's economic slowdown and its efforts to protect domestic miners and rein in rampant pollution, most analysts expect consumption of the fuel to remain stable or rise in the future.</p> <p>Some 500 coal-fired power stations are currently under construction, 80 percent of which are in the Asia-Pacific region, where emerging markets as well as developed economies such as Japan and South Korea are still seeing consumption grow.</p> </blockquote> <p>In any case, the Peabody bankruptcy was quickly celebrated by environmentalists as a big win for the climate. Peabody <a href="http://www.motherjones.com/environment/2015/11/peabody-coal-climate-investors-attorney-general" target="_blank">came under fire late last year</a>, when an investigation by the New York State Attorney General found the company had misled its shareholders about the risks climate change could pose to its bottom line.</p> <p>"Perhaps if [Peabody] had spent more time and money diversifying their business rather than on lobbying against climate action and sowing the seeds of doubt about the science, they might not have joined the long (and ever growing) list of bankrupt global coal companies," 350.org co-founder Bill McKibben said in a statement.</p></body></html> Blue Marble Climate Change Climate Desk Energy Infrastructure Wed, 13 Apr 2016 15:04:41 +0000 Tim McDonnell 301771 at http://www.motherjones.com What the Lunch Ladies Didn't Tell You http://www.motherjones.com/blue-marble/2016/04/bite-school-lunch-episode <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" "http://www.w3.org/TR/REC-html40/loose.dtd"> <html><body><p><em>We're excited to present another episode of Bite, our new food politics podcast. Listen to <a href="http://www.motherjones.com/category/secondary-tags/bite" target="_blank">all of our episodes here</a>, or by subscribing in <a href="https://itunes.apple.com/us/podcast/bite/id1090260338?mt=2" target="_blank">iTunes</a>, <a href="http://app.stitcher.com/browse/feed/86694/details" target="_blank">Stitcher</a>, or via <a href="http://feeds.feedburner.com/bite-podcast" target="_blank">RSS</a>.</em></p> <p>Cast your mind back to your high school cafeteria, and recall that feeling of having a tray full of tater tots, grayish Salisbury steak, and lime Jello and trying to find a friendly place to sit. Excruciating, right?</p> <p>Impressive, then, that our guest on this week's episode of our podcast <a href="http://www.motherjones.com/category/secondary-tags/bite" target="_blank"><em>Bite</em></a> voluntarily spends a whole lot of time thinking about that lovely place. Bettina Elias Siegel is the writer behind the popular blog <a href="http://www.thelunchtray.com/" target="_blank"><em>The Lunch Tray</em></a>, which is all about the fascinating politics behind what kids eat. Siegel schools us on how mandatory cookies at her kids' cafeteria inspired her to start blogging, and she tells us about the weight-loss video that McDonald's made for schools and the truth about those <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2015/02/25/school-lunches-around-the-world_n_6746164.html" target="_blank">too-perfect photos</a> of what schools in other countries serve for lunch.</p> <link href="https://d2nx6ydw3e5y5d.cloudfront.net/assets/current.css" media="screen" rel="stylesheet" type="text/css"><div class="art19-web-player awp-medium awp-theme-dark-orange" data-episode-id="81935eed-46e6-4516-83e8-7f0c37d7975d">&nbsp;</div> <script src="https://d2nx6ydw3e5y5d.cloudfront.net/assets/current.js" type="text/javascript"></script><p>But that's not all the lunch fun in the episode! We asked you, our listeners, to share your cafeteria memories, and you guys delivered. I don't want to give too much away, but let me just say two words: Cow tongue.</p> <p>And if school lunch isn't your thing, don't worry&mdash;you can still tune in to hear Tom Philpott wonder whether we've finally <a href="http://www.motherjones.com/tom-philpott/2016/04/juicero-start-up-silicon-valley-expensive-juice-fiber-sugar" target="_blank">reached peak juice</a>.</p></body></html> Blue Marble Podcasts Education Food Bite Fri, 08 Apr 2016 10:00:13 +0000 Kiera Butler 301401 at http://www.motherjones.com Here’s Something Else Donald Trump Is Totally Wrong About http://www.motherjones.com/blue-marble/2016/04/heres-some-good-news-about-planet <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" "http://www.w3.org/TR/REC-html40/loose.dtd"> <html><body><p>The only way to stop climate change is to drastically reduce, and ultimately eliminate, greenhouse gas emissions. If you want to know how well we're doing on that goal, a good place to start is the Environmental Protection Agency's <a href="https://www3.epa.gov/climatechange/Downloads/ghgemissions/US-GHG-Inventory-2016-Chapter-Executive-Summary.pdf" target="_blank">official GHG database</a>. And frankly, the picture isn't very pretty.</p> <p>The total level of US emissions in 2014 wasn't very different than it was 30 years ago:</p> <div class="inline inline-center" style="display: table; width: 1%"><img alt="" class="image" src="/files/Screen%20Shot%202016-04-05%20at%2011.06.23%20AM.png"><div class="caption">EPA</div> </div> <p>However, total emissions is a fairly misleading way to look at progress on climate change. Most of these emissions come from fossil fuels burned to make energy&mdash;either electricity from power plants or gas for cars and trucks. So emissions are heavily influenced by economic activity; a downturn in the economy would mean people drive less, factories use less electricity, etc., and the outcome would be lower emissions. At least, that's the way things used to be.</p> <p>Over the last few years, the United States and many other countries around the world have seen an unprecedented disconnect between gross domestic product and emissions. Thanks to an increasingly large share of energy coming from renewables and vast improvements to energy efficiency, emissions can now be increasingly "decoupled" from economic activity. In other words, it's now possible to grow the economy without growing emissions.</p> <p>A <a href="http://www.wri.org/blog/2016/04/roads-decoupling-21-countries-are-reducing-carbon-emissions-while-growing-gdp" target="_blank">new analysis</a> from the World Resources Institute illustrates how this trend is already playing out around the world. It's a bit of good news, and a solid rebuttal to anyone who says saving the climate means killing the economy&mdash;<a href="http://www.motherjones.com/politics/2015/06/donald-trump-science-climate-change-vaccines-autism-ebola" target="_blank">looking at you, Donald Trump</a>:</p> <div class="inline inline-center" style="display: table; width: 1%"><img alt="" class="image" src="/files/Decoupling_sparkline_graphic_final.jpg"><div class="caption">WRI</div> </div></body></html> Blue Marble Charts Climate Change Climate Desk Energy Infrastructure Tue, 05 Apr 2016 15:58:13 +0000 Tim McDonnell 301191 at http://www.motherjones.com Scott Baio Has Important Thoughts About Science http://www.motherjones.com/blue-marble/2016/04/scott-baio-donald-trump-climate-dumb <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" "http://www.w3.org/TR/REC-html40/loose.dtd"> <html><body><p>You may remember Scott Baio from sitcom <em>Happy Days </em>and its spin-off <em>Joanie Loves Chachi</em>, as well as the classic <em>Charles in Charge</em>. A few weeks ago, <a href="http://thehill.com/blogs/in-the-know/273737-scott-baio-endorses-trump" target="_blank">Baio endorsed Donald Trump</a> to be America's next president because, <a href="https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bhJz12-_jgU" target="_blank">as he told Fox News</a> this weekend, Trump "is the only guy that has the will to attack and to fight." Also Baio thinks the US-Mexico border wall is a good idea.</p> <p>On Saturday, Baio expressed his support for Trump in the form of a <a href="http://www.eater.com/2016/4/3/11355500/starbucks-barista-trump-name-scott-baio-cup" target="_blank">Starbucks coffee cup</a>. On Sunday, he expressed it in the form of a tweet about climate change that is straight from the Trump playbook:</p> <blockquote class="twitter-tweet" data-lang="en"> <p dir="ltr" lang="en">Dear Global Warming, Funny, I spent 4 days in Palm Desert playing golf, getting a tan while looking at the snow on the mountains.</p> &mdash; Scott Baio (@ScottBaio) <a href="https://twitter.com/ScottBaio/status/716822976004358144">April 4, 2016</a></blockquote> <script async src="//platform.twitter.com/widgets.js" charset="utf-8"></script><p>Reminds me of the classic:</p> <blockquote class="twitter-tweet" data-lang="en"> <p dir="ltr" lang="en">NBC News just called it the great freeze - coldest weather in years. Is our country still spending money on the GLOBAL WARMING HOAX?</p> &mdash; Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) <a href="https://twitter.com/realDonaldTrump/status/427226424987385856">January 25, 2014</a></blockquote> <script async src="//platform.twitter.com/widgets.js" charset="utf-8"></script><p>Dear Scott Baio: The continued existence of weather&mdash;<a href="http://www.motherjones.com/blue-marble/2014/01/blizzards-dont-refute-global-warming" target="_blank">yes, including snow!</a>&mdash;does not disprove climate change. &nbsp;</p></body></html> Blue Marble 2016 Elections Climate Change Climate Desk Mon, 04 Apr 2016 16:50:58 +0000 Tim McDonnell 301066 at http://www.motherjones.com The Feds Just Issued an Earthshaking Report About Fracking http://www.motherjones.com/blue-marble/2016/03/earthquakes-injection-wells-usgs <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" "http://www.w3.org/TR/REC-html40/loose.dtd"> <html><body><p>Oklahomans have always had to deal with tornadoes, wildfires, and ice storms. But now residents of the Sooner State are facing a new threat: damaging earthquakes.</p> <p>For the first time, the US Geological Survey has included "human-induced" earthquakes in its <a href="http://pubs.usgs.gov/of/2016/1035/ofr20161035.pdf" target="_blank">seismic hazard forecast</a>. These man-made tremors are most often attributed to the injection wells in which oil and gas companies dispose of wastewater from hydraulic fracturing, or "fracking." The USGS seismologists estimate that some 7 million people in the central and eastern United States now live in areas at risk of a damaging earthquake.</p> <div><div id="mininav" class="inline-subnav"> <!-- header content --> <div id="mininav-header-content"> <div id="mininav-header-text"> <p class="mininav-header-text" style="margin: 0; padding: 0.75em; font-size: 11px; font-weight: bold; line-height: 1.2em; background-color: rgb(221, 221, 221);"> More Mother Jones coverage of fracking </p> </div> </div> <!-- linked stories --> <div id="mininav-linked-stories"> <ul><span id="linked-story-215021"> <li><a href="/environment/2013/03/does-fracking-cause-earthquakes-wastewater-dewatering"> Fracking's Latest Scandal? Earthquake Swarms</a></li> </span> <span id="linked-story-257241"> <li><a href="/environment/2014/09/hillary-clinton-fracking-shale-state-department-chevron"> How Hillary Clinton's State Department Sold Fracking to the World</a></li> </span> <span id="linked-story-258966"> <li><a href="/environment/2014/08/methane-vs-carbon-dioxide-raymond-pierrehumbert-inquiring-minds"> Why Coal Is (Still) Worse Than Fracking and Cow Burps</a></li> </span> <span id="linked-story-298896"> <li><a href="/environment/2016/03/clinton-sanders-fracking-plan-climate"> Clinton and Sanders Want to Restrict Fracking. Will That Make Global Warming Worse?</a></li> </span> <span id="linked-story-259261"> <li><a href="/environment/2014/09/china-us-fracking-shale-gas"> Deep Inside the Wild World of China's Fracking Boom</a></li> </span> </ul></div> <!-- footer content --> </div> </div> <p>"By including human-induced events, our assessment of earthquake hazards has significantly increased in parts of the US," said Mark Petersen, who leads the agency's National Seismic Hazard Mapping Project, in a statement.</p> <p>The risk is most acute in parts of central Oklahoma and southern Kansas, the epicenter of a fracking boom. According to the new report, the chances of a damaging earthquake (defined as level 6 or greater on the <a href="http://earthquake.usgs.gov/learn/topics/mag_vs_int.php" target="_blank">Modified Mercalli Intensity</a> scale) in these areas now range from 5 percent to 12 percent in the next year. Level 6 is considered the threshold at which earthquakes become more than a matter of a few smashed dishes and jolted nerves, causing structural damage in the form of cracked walls and chipped plaster.</p> <p>However, the researchers say damaging tremors linked to injection wells are unlikely to pack the punch of the strongest earthquakes on the West Coast. The largest earthquake ever in Oklahoma was a&nbsp;<a href="http://earthquake.usgs.gov/earthquakes/eventpage/usp000jadn#general_region">magnitude 5.6</a> on the <a href="http://earthquake.usgs.gov/learn/glossary/?term=Richter%20scale" target="_blank">Richter scale</a> in 2011 centered near the town of Prague, about 40 miles east of Oklahoma City. (A level six MMI <a href="http://earthquake.usgs.gov/learn/topics/mag_vs_int.php" target="_blank">corresponds</a> to roughly 5.0 on the Richter scale.) Located near several active injection wells, <a href="http://earthquake.usgs.gov/earthquakes/eventpage/usp000jadn#general_region" target="_blank">the trembler</a> injured two people and destroyed more than a dozen homes.</p> <div class="inline inline-left" style="display: table; width: 1%"><img alt="" class="image" src="/files/Screen%20Shot%202016-03-28%20at%204.21.50%20PM.png"><div class="caption"><strong>The 2016 seismic risk assessment focused on human-induced and natural earthquakes in the eastern and central United States. The risk of natural quakes in the West is given for comparison. </strong>USGS</div> </div> <p>Other hubs of human-induced seismicity identified in the USGS report include the Dallas area, which has seen more than <a href="http://www.dallasnews.com/news/metro/20150117-usgs-likely-to-upgrade-north-texas-quake-risk-level.ece" target="_blank">180 earthquakes since 2008</a>; central Arkansas; and the Raton Basin along the New Mexico-Colorado border. An additional area of natural earthquake activity visible on the map lies along the New Madrid fault west of Nashville.</p> <p>Typically, the USGS releases hazard forecasts with a 50-year outlook. They are used as guidance for local building codes and engineering design strategies in quake-prone areas. But the new report looks just one year ahead, a decision the researchers say is due to the highly variable risk of human-induced earthquakes from year to year.</p> <p>In the past six years, that danger has spiked. From 1973 to 2008, the central United States saw an average of 24 earthquakes each year with a magnitude of 3.0 or greater (earthquakes weaker than that are not typically felt). The rate increased steadily between 2009 and 2015, averaging 318 earthquakes per year and reaching 1,010 in 2015. The tremors haven't abated this year, the USGS says; through mid-March, there have been 226 earthquakes of magnitude 3.0 or larger in the central United States.</p> <p>Still, it's possible the earthquake risk could diminish with similar speed, the researchers note, given that unlike tectonic plates, industrial practices can be regulated. In an interview with the<em> Oklahoman</em>, Tom Robins, the state's deputy energy secretary, <a href="http://newsok.com/oklahoma-among-highest-earthquake-risk-according-to-usgs-report/article/5487987" target="_blank">noted that</a> recent efforts to rein in wastewater injection are not yet reflected in the USGS data. That includes a call from regulators <a href="http://www.nytimes.com/2016/03/08/us/oklahoma-earthquakes-oil-gas-wells.html" target="_blank">earlier this month</a> for a 40 percent reduction in wastewater injection volume.</p></body></html> Blue Marble Climate Desk Energy Science Top Stories Infrastructure Tue, 29 Mar 2016 18:48:05 +0000 Gregory Barber 300526 at http://www.motherjones.com We've Barely Begun to Tap the Sun's Mighty Power http://www.motherjones.com/blue-marble/2016/03/solar-power-nrel-study <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" "http://www.w3.org/TR/REC-html40/loose.dtd"> <html><body><p>It seems like every few weeks there's some new measurement of how successful solar power is in the United States. In early March, industry analysts found that solar is <a href="http://www.motherjones.com/blue-marble/2016/03/us-solar-market-growing-ridiculously-fast" target="_blank">poised for its biggest year ever</a>, with total installations growing 119 percent by the end of 2016. This week, federal government analysts reported that in 2015, <a href="https://www.eia.gov/todayinenergy/detail.cfm?id=25492" target="_blank">solar ranked No. 3</a> (behind wind and natural gas) in megawatts of new electricity-producing capacity brought online. That rank is even more impressive when you consider that each individual solar installation is fewer megawatts than a wind turbine, and far fewer than a natural-gas plant; that means solar panels are popping up like crazy across the country.</p> <p>Which makes you wonder: Is there a limit to that growth? According to a <a href="http://www.nrel.gov/docs/fy16osti/65298.pdf" target="_blank">new report</a> from the National Renewable Energy Laboratory, a federal research outfit, there's good news and bad news. The bad news: Yes, there is a ceiling for solar power in the United States. The good news: We're not even remotely close to reaching it. In other words, solar's potential has barely been tapped.</p> <p>The report is the deepest dive on solar's potential since NREL conducted a similar analysis in 2008. The new report's estimate is much larger than the older report's, mostly because of vast new troves of satellite imagery data of the country's rooftops and computer models that are better able to calculate how much power each panel can produce. The analysis leaves behind policy and cost considerations. Instead, the only question is: How much power could we really get if we slathered every roof in America with solar panels? The answer: about 39 percent of the country's electricity consumption, at current levels.</p> <p>It's important to note that the report looks only at rooftop panels, as opposed to utility-scale solar farms. Utility-scale solar provides about <a href="http://www.eia.gov/electricity/monthly/epm_table_grapher.cfm?t=epmt_1_01" target="_blank">twice as much power</a> as rooftop panels, so the full potential of solar is likely even higher than what NREL describes in this report. Even 39 percent, though, would be a revolutionary change from where we are now; despite solar's rapid growth in the last several years, it still accounts for less than 1 percent of electricity consumption. Coal, which is still the nation's No. 1 energy source, commands about 32 percent of the market. So the future that NREL is envisioning here would basically flip our energy makeup on its head.</p> <p>The most potential exists in sunny states, obviously, but also in states that have relatively low electricity needs. The map below shows what percentage of each state's power could be derived from rooftop panels if they were fully utilized:</p> <div class="inline inline-center" style="display: table; width: 1%"><img alt="" class="image" src="/files/nrel-solar.jpg"><div class="caption">NREL</div> </div> <p>Again, NREL stresses that the estimates here "provide an upper bound on potential deployment rather than a prediction of actual deployment." It's very unlikely that this exact scenario will come to pass. The <a href="http://www.vox.com/2015/6/9/8748081/us-100-percent-renewable-energy" target="_blank">most recent study</a> by Stanford energy economist Mark Jacobson, who researches ways the United States could get 100 percent of its power from renewable sources, sees rooftop solar contributing about 7 percent of total electricity by 2050. And that's with, as <em>Vox</em>'s David Roberts put it, "enormous, heroic assumptions about social and political change."</p> <p>But hey&hellip;we're <a href="http://www.motherjones.com/environment/2016/03/california-cuts-greenhouse-gas-jerry-brown-growth-energy" target="_blank">dreamers of the golden dream</a>, right?</p></body></html> Blue Marble Maps Climate Change Climate Desk Energy Science Infrastructure Thu, 24 Mar 2016 20:01:10 +0000 Tim McDonnell 300296 at http://www.motherjones.com Donald Trump Is "Not a Big Believer" in Climate Change http://www.motherjones.com/blue-marble/2016/03/trump-climate-change-washington-post <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" "http://www.w3.org/TR/REC-html40/loose.dtd"> <html><body><p>On Monday the <em>Washington Post </em>editorial board <a href="https://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/post-partisan/wp/2016/03/21/a-transcript-of-donald-trumps-meeting-with-the-washington-post-editorial-board/" target="_blank">published a full transcript of its meeting with Donald Trump</a>. It's worth reading in full, if only because reading Trump's unedited words, as opposed to hearing them spoken out loud, is an especially mind-blowing <em>tour-de-force</em> of nonsense. In response to the very earnest series of questions posed by <em>WaPo </em>editors, Trump offers little-to-nothing of any substance. In many cases, he just immediately changed the subject rather than respond to the actual questions.</p> <p>One exception, where he actually did answer to the question asked of him, was the following exchange about climate change. As <a href="http://www.motherjones.com/politics/2015/06/donald-trump-science-climate-change-vaccines-autism-ebola" target="_blank">he has made clear many times before</a>, he is a strident denier of climate science&mdash;or, as he puts it, "not a big believer," as though accepting the premise that greenhouse gas emissions from burning fossil fuels warms the planet requires some sort of leap of faith. <a href="https://www.ipcc.ch/report/ar5/" target="_blank">It doesn't</a>.</p> <p>Naturally, Trump also doesn't view climate change as a national security threat. <a href="http://www.motherjones.com/environment/2015/03/climate-change-syria-obama-cpac" target="_blank">It is</a>.&nbsp;</p> <p>Sad!</p> <blockquote> <p>HIATT: Last one: You think climate change is a real thing? Is there human-caused climate change?</p> <p>TRUMP: I think there's a change in weather. I am not a great believer in man-made climate change. I'm not a great believer. There is certainly a change in weather that goes&mdash;if you look, they had global cooling in the 1920s and now they have global warming, although now they don't know if they have global warming. They call it all sorts of different things; now they're using "extreme weather" I guess more than any other phrase. I am not&mdash;I know it hurts me with this room, and I know it's probably a killer with this room&mdash;but I am not a believer. Perhaps there's a minor effect, but I'm not a big believer in man-made climate change.</p> <p>STROMBERG: Don't good businessmen hedge against risks, not ignore them?</p> <p>TRUMP: Well I just think we have much bigger risks. I mean I think we have militarily tremendous risks. I think we're in tremendous peril. I think our biggest form of climate change we should worry about is nuclear weapons. The biggest risk to the world, to me&mdash;I know President Obama thought it was climate change&mdash;to me the biggest risk is nuclear weapons. That's&mdash;that is climate change. That is a disaster, and we don't even know where the nuclear weapons are right now. We don't know who has them. We don't know who's trying to get them. The biggest risk for this world and this country is nuclear weapons, the power of nuclear weapons.</p> </blockquote></body></html> Blue Marble 2016 Elections Climate Change Climate Desk Science Donald Trump Tue, 22 Mar 2016 16:08:37 +0000 Tim McDonnell 300066 at http://www.motherjones.com Stop Using Science to Justify Your Boozing http://www.motherjones.com/blue-marble/2016/03/health-benefits-moderate-drinking <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" "http://www.w3.org/TR/REC-html40/loose.dtd"> <html><body><div class="inline inline-center" style="display: table; width: 1%"><iframe allowfullscreen="" class="giphy-embed" frameborder="0" height="287" src="//giphy.com/embed/vWdiIPTL5L2w" width="480"></iframe> <div class="caption">Reddit, via Giphy</div> </div> <p>Drinking a little bit of alcohol is good for you, right? That, at least, is the conventional wisdom lurking in the back of your mind as you nurse your second glass of wine on a Tuesday night. And it's indeed true that dozens of studies have reported health benefits from consuming a moderate amount of booze. They suggest, for example, that it can actually lower your risk of dying. (Which is weird, since...drunk driving.)</p> <p>Now some Canadian researchers (curse them) have given all this mortality data a closer look. And since I know you're tipsy and can't handle too many words, let's use these images the scientists kindly provided...</p> <div class="inline inline-center" style="display: table; width: 1%"><img alt="" class="image" src="/files/drinkers0.jpg"></div> <p>I do <em>not</em> like where this is headed. The next chart depicts what those 87 studies appeared to demonstrate: that downing one to four drinks a day lowers your risk of dying compared with either (a) heavy drinkers or (b) "abstainers" who don't drink at all.</p> <div class="inline inline-center" style="display: table; width: 1%"><img alt="" class="image" src="/files/drinkers1_0.jpg"></div> <p>But does this really make sense? I mean, apart from the fact that "occasional" drinkers should be way closer to the Y axis, why would having less than one drink a week bring roughly the same benefit as downing one or two per <em>day</em>? Something doesn't quite add up here, and that's what these horrid researchers have discovered as well. "A fundamental question is, who are these moderate drinkers being compared against?" lead author Tim Stockwell,&nbsp;director of the University of Victoria's Centre for Addictions Research in British Columbia, noted in a statement.</p> <p>The problem here has to do with something Stockwell calls "abstainer bias." Because there's a difference between just not drinking and not drinking because you have serious health problems, or it's killing your marriage, or whatever.</p> <div class="inline inline-center" style="display: table; width: 1%"><img alt="" class="image" src="/files/drinkers2_1.jpg"></div> <p>So what happens when you account for this abstainer bias? Well, things aren't looking so good for you now, are they, lush?</p> <div class="inline inline-center" style="display: table; width: 1%"><img alt="" class="image" src="/files/drinkers3_0.png"></div> <p>It now appears that light drinking is a wash at best&mdash;at least according to Stockwell et al, whose paper appears in the March issue of the<i> Journal of Studies on Alcohol and Drugs</i>, a title so literal it makes you crave a couple cold ones. The journal also hides the full text of its papers <a href="http://dx.doi.org/10.15288/jsad.2016.77.185" target="_blank">behind a paywall</a>, an affront to scientific advancement&mdash;but that's a topic for <a href="http://www.motherjones.com/media/2013/09/michael-eisen-plos-open-access-aaron-swartz" target="_blank">another article</a>.</p> <p>Stockwell and his colleagues did have one other key observation: The vast majority of the studies linking alcohol and mortality were just not very good.</p> <div class="inline inline-center" style="display: table; width: 1%"><img alt="" class="image" src="/files/drinkers4_0.jpg"></div> <p>As for you "medium volume" drinkers, it now appears you're only slightly better off than those people who quit drinking because of their myriad problems. "High volume" drinkers? You are done for, lad. Five or more drinks a day is just a stupid, <em>Mad Men</em> level of boozing. Join AA or perish. But perhaps your spirits will be lifted by the following message, via <a href="http://www.sadanduseless.com/2015/10/funny-pub-signs/" target="_blank">SadAndUseless.com</a>:</p> <div class="inline inline-center" style="display: table; width: 1%"><img alt="" class="image" src="/files/sign-wine.jpg"></div></body></html> Blue Marble Food Health Tue, 22 Mar 2016 09:00:11 +0000 Michael Mechanic 299821 at http://www.motherjones.com Hillary Clinton Really Regrets Saying She’d Put Coal Miners Out of Work http://www.motherjones.com/blue-marble/2016/03/hillary-clinton-just-walked-back-controversial-statement-about-coal <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" "http://www.w3.org/TR/REC-html40/loose.dtd"> <html><body><p>Last weekend, Democratic presidential front-runner Hillary Clinton made an unexpectedly strong statement about her intentions for coal country. <a href="http://www.motherjones.com/blue-marble/2016/03/hillary-clinton-will-probably-regret-comment" target="_blank">As I reported</a>:</p> <blockquote> <p>Speaking in Ohio about her plans to revitalize coal country, Clinton said, "We're going to put a lot of coal companies and coal miners out of business." That comment was immediately preceded by a promise to invest in the clean-energy economy in those places, and immediately followed by a pledge to "make it clear that we don't want to forget those people." But it's not hard to guess which comment will end up as a sound bite in attack ads in coal states during the general election.</p> </blockquote> <p>Unsurprisingly, the comment was quickly condemned by lawmakers from coal country. In response, Clinton sent a letter to West Virginia Sen. Joe Manchin (D), to "clarify" what she meant. In the letter, she says that her comment about lost coal jobs was intended to describe an existing downward spiral in the coal industry, rather than a promise to intentionally put coal miners out of work through her policy decisions. You can read the letter below. It's a helpful bit of context, but I doubt it will be enough to keep Donald Trump, or whoever her general election opponent turns out to be, from using the soundbite against her.</p> <div class="DV-container" id="DV-viewer-2767046-Letter-to-Senator-Manchin">&nbsp;</div> <script src="//assets.documentcloud.org/viewer/loader.js"></script><script> DV.load("https://www.documentcloud.org/documents/2767046-Letter-to-Senator-Manchin.js", { width: 630, height: 600, sidebar: false, container: "#DV-viewer-2767046-Letter-to-Senator-Manchin" }); </script><noscript> <a href="https://assets.documentcloud.org/documents/2767046/Letter-to-Senator-Manchin.pdf">Letter-to-Senator-Manchin (PDF)</a> <br><a href="https://assets.documentcloud.org/documents/2767046/Letter-to-Senator-Manchin.txt">Letter-to-Senator-Manchin (Text)</a> </noscript></body></html> Blue Marble 2016 Elections Climate Change Climate Desk Energy Hillary Clinton Thu, 17 Mar 2016 18:38:23 +0000 Tim McDonnell 299751 at http://www.motherjones.com SeaWorld Announces It Will Finally Stop Breeding Killer Whales http://www.motherjones.com/blue-marble/2016/03/seaworld-announces-it-will-end-breeding-killer-whales <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" "http://www.w3.org/TR/REC-html40/loose.dtd"> <html><body><p>On Thursday, SeaWorld announced it is <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/seaworld-orcas-treatment_us_56e9cf43e4b0860f99db7e36" target="_blank">ending its controversial killer</a> whale breeding program this year. The move, which was announced in partnership with the Humane Society of the United States, follows years of mounting public backlash over the treatment of animals living in the company's parks.</p> <p>SeaWorld CEO Joel Manby explained the company's decision in an op-ed for the <a href="http://www.latimes.com/opinion/op-ed/la-oe-0317-manby-sea-world-orca-breeding-20160317-story.html" target="_blank"><em>Los Angeles Times</em>:</a></p> <blockquote> <p>We are proud of contributing to the evolving understanding of one of the world's largest marine mammals. Now we need to respond to the attitudinal change that we helped to create&mdash;which is why SeaWorld is announcing several historic changes. This year we will end all orca breeding programs&mdash;and because SeaWorld hasn't collected an orca from the wild in almost four decades, this will be the last generation of orcas in SeaWorld's care.</p> </blockquote> <p>The orcas currently in captivity at SeaWorld will live out the rest of their lives in the parks, despite pressure from animal rights activists to release them into the wild. Manby said on Thursday that such calls to release them were "not wise" and that if they were to do so, the whales would likely die.</p> <p>For years, SeaWorld has been under intense scrutiny over the conditions killer whales are subjected to in its parks, conditions many animal rights activists describe as inhumane. The 2013 documentary <em>Blackfish</em> heightened those concerns.</p> <p>In November, SeaWorld announced it was ending its <a href="http://www.motherjones.com/blue-marble/2015/11/seaworld-stopping-its-killer-whale-show" target="_blank">popular killer whale show </a>at its flagship park in San Diego.</p></body></html> Blue Marble Animals Thu, 17 Mar 2016 12:38:18 +0000 Inae Oh 299721 at http://www.motherjones.com Clinton Says She'll "Put a Lot of Coal Companies and Coal Miners Out of Business" http://www.motherjones.com/blue-marble/2016/03/hillary-clinton-will-probably-regret-comment <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" "http://www.w3.org/TR/REC-html40/loose.dtd"> <html><body><p>Just one day after Hillary Clinton <a href="https://medium.com/@HillaryClinton/on-the-fight-against-hiv-and-aids-and-on-the-people-who-really-started-the-conversation-7b9fc00e6ed8#.2uofns32u" target="_blank">issued a lengthy apology</a> for a controversial comment she made about Nancy Reagan's contribution to the fight against AIDS, the Democratic front-runner made another unforced error during a CNN town hall event on Sunday night.</p> <p>Speaking in Ohio about her plans to revitalize coal country, Clinton said, "We're going to put a lot of coal companies and coal miners out of business." That comment was immediately preceded by a promise to invest in the clean-energy economy in those places, and immediately followed by a pledge to "make it clear that we don't want to forget those people." But it's not hard to guess which comment will end up as a sound bite in attack ads in coal states during the general election.</p> <p><iframe allowfullscreen="" frameborder="0" height="354" src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/ksIXqxpQNt0" width="630"></iframe></p> <p>Clinton's statement likely referred to her support for President Barack Obama's Clean Power Plan, the cornerstone of his climate policy, which will require states to reduce their coal consumption in favor of natural gas, renewables, and energy efficiency. It garnered a quick rebuttal from Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.).</p> <blockquote class="twitter-tweet" data-lang="en"> <p dir="ltr" lang="en">She vows to finish <a href="https://twitter.com/BarackObama">@barackobama</a>'s war on coal and Kentucky. <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/DemTownHall?src=hash">#DemTownHall</a></p> &mdash; Dr. Rand Paul (@RandPaul) <a href="https://twitter.com/RandPaul/status/709209082880782336">March 14, 2016</a></blockquote> <script async src="//platform.twitter.com/widgets.js" charset="utf-8"></script><blockquote class="twitter-tweet" data-lang="en"> <p dir="ltr" lang="en">Kentucky voters know which party in Washington is trying to destroy their state and industry and they know I am fighting for them.</p> &mdash; Dr. Rand Paul (@RandPaul) <a href="https://twitter.com/RandPaul/status/709210992849383424">March 14, 2016</a></blockquote> <script async src="//platform.twitter.com/widgets.js" charset="utf-8"></script><p>Obama's climate regulations have little to do with the coal industry's decline over the last decade. For one thing, they are currently held up in court, and they wouldn't take effect for several years anyway. More important, coal is getting hammered by competition from natural gas made cheap by fracking, as well as the exploding solar and wind industries. In the last town hall, Clinton said that under her administration, "I do not think there will be many places in America where fracking will continue to take place." Since a widespread decline in gas consumption would <a href="http://www.motherjones.com/environment/2016/03/clinton-sanders-fracking-plan-climate" target="_blank">most likely lead to an increase in coal consumption</a>, it's possible that Clinton's energy policy could be just the opposite of the "war on coal" Paul describes.</p> <p>Although Bernie Sanders is also a <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/bernie-sanders-climate-plan_us_5664f5f6e4b079b2818f09a4" target="_blank">vociferous proponent of clean energy</a>, Clinton is so far the only candidate in the race to produce a <a href="http://www.motherjones.com/environment/2015/11/hillary-clinton-coal-country-economy-climate" target="_blank">specific plan for supporting coal communities</a> affected by the transition to a cleaner energy economy. Still, <a href="https://newrepublic.com/article/130518/bernie-crushing-hillary-coal-country" target="_blank">Sanders appears to be crushing Clinton</a> in coal states that have had primaries so far. So it probably doesn't serve her campaign well to remind people that for a small number of communities, the fight against climate change could mean the end of a traditionally important field of employment.</p></body></html> Blue Marble Video 2016 Elections Climate Change Climate Desk Energy Hillary Clinton Mon, 14 Mar 2016 17:39:28 +0000 Tim McDonnell 299386 at http://www.motherjones.com Why Are So Many Women Getting Unnecessary Mastectomies? http://www.motherjones.com/blue-marble/2016/03/mastectomy-rates-increasing-survival-benefit-breast-cancer-study <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" "http://www.w3.org/TR/REC-html40/loose.dtd"> <html><body><p>Many American women with breast cancer undergo a mastectomy to remove the affected breast, but a growing number are opting to remove the noncancerous breast, too&mdash;a surgery known as contralateral prophylactic mastectomy (CPM). A new <a href="http://journals.lww.com/annalsofsurgery/Abstract/publishahead/Growing_Use_of_Contralateral_Prophylactic.97018.aspx" target="_blank">study</a> in <em>Annals of Surgery </em>suggests that this second procedure, while risky, does nothing to improve a woman's chances of survival.</p> <p>In theory, the procedure is intended to prevent breast cancer from developing in the healthy breast&mdash;or sometimes to achieve a more symmetrical look after a mastectomy. The number of women doing it has tripled, from just under 4 percent of female breast cancer patients in 2002 to nearly 13 percent in 2012. That's based on data from nearly 500,000 women, analyzed by researchers from Brigham and Women's Hospital in Boston.</p> <p>The procedure is often unnecessary, the researchers noted: Most patients are unlikely to develop cancer in the other breast, unless they have a genetic mutation that makes them particularly susceptible, or have a strong family history of breast or ovarian cancer. "Our analysis highlights the sustained, sharp rise in popularity of CPM while contributing to the mounting evidence that this more extensive surgery offers no significant survival benefit to women with a first diagnosis of breast cancer," Dr. Mehra Golshan, a senior author of the study, said in a <a href="http://www.eurekalert.org/pub_releases/2016-03/bawh-rop031016.php" target="_blank">statement</a>. In addition to the added cost, he noted, having the second surgery prolongs recovery time, increases the risk of complications and the need for repeat surgery, and affects the patient's "self image."</p> <p>The breast cancer survivor group Susan G. Komen <a href="http://ww5.komen.org/KomenPerspectives/Why-are-rates-of-bilateral-mastectomies-rising-.html" target="_blank">notes</a> one possible cause for the spike in CPMs: MRIs that result in false positives&mdash;showing something that looks like cancer but turns out to be benign. Mammograms, too, often result in false positives and have resulted in huge numbers of women getting treatments they don't need. As Christie Aschwanden pointed out in an <a href="http://www.motherjones.com/politics/2015/10/faulty-research-behind-mammograms-breast-cancer" target="_blank">investigation </a>for <em>Mother Jones </em>last year:</p> <blockquote> <p>Mammography isn't the infallible tool we wanted it to be. Some things that look like cancer on a mammogram (or the biopsy that comes afterward) don't act like cancer in the body&mdash;they don't invade and proliferate in other organs. Some of the abnormalities breast screenings find will never hurt you, but we don't yet have the tools to distinguish the harmless ones from the deadly ones. And so these medical tests provoke doctors to categorize lots of merely suspicious cells in with the most dangerous cancers, which means that while some lives are saved, even more women end up with treatments they don't need&hellip;</p> <p>Mammograms do help a small number of women avoid dying from breast cancer each year, and those lives count, but a 2012 study published in the <em>New England Journal of Medicine</em> calculated that over the last 30 years, mammograms have <a href="http://www.nejm.org/doi/full/10.1056/NEJMoa1206809" target="_blank">overdiagnosed 1.3 million women</a> in the United States&hellip;Most of the 1.3 million women who were overdiagnosed received some kind of treatment&mdash;surgical procedures ranging from lumpectomies to double mastectomies, often with radiation and chemotherapy or hormonal therapy, too&mdash;for cancers never destined to bother them.</p> </blockquote> <p>For more, check out Aschwanden's full story <a href="http://www.motherjones.com/politics/2015/10/faulty-research-behind-mammograms-breast-cancer" target="_blank">here</a>.</p></body></html> Blue Marble Health Health Care Mon, 14 Mar 2016 10:00:16 +0000 Samantha Michaels 299276 at http://www.motherjones.com Here's How to Trick Your Brain Into Eating Better http://www.motherjones.com/blue-marble/2016/03/bite-brian-wansink-choose-your-plate-wisely-cornell-food-and-brand-lab <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" "http://www.w3.org/TR/REC-html40/loose.dtd"> <html><body><p><em>We're excited to present another episode of Bite, our new food politics podcast. Listen to <a href="http://www.motherjones.com/category/secondary-tags/bite" target="_blank">all of our episodes here</a>, or by subscribing in <a href="https://itunes.apple.com/us/podcast/bite/id1090260338?mt=2" target="_blank">iTunes</a>, <a href="http://app.stitcher.com/browse/feed/86694/details" target="_blank">Stitcher</a>, or via <a href="http://feeds.feedburner.com/bite-podcast" target="_blank">RSS</a>.</em></p> <p>Trying to shed a few pounds? Forget the fad diets, says food psychologist Brian Wansink. Instead, he recommends following his scientifically proven advice: If you serve yourself dinner on a small plate instead of a big one, for example, you'll end up eating less. People who keep fruit on their counters tend to weigh less than people who don't. Red-wine drinkers are thinner than white-wine drinkers.</p> <p>Wansink runs the <a href="http://foodpsychology.cornell.edu/" target="_blank">Food and Brand Lab</a>, a research center at Cornell University where he and his team have found all sorts of clever ways of tricking your brain into eating better&mdash;so you don't have to count calories. As I learned while <a href="http://www.motherjones.com/environment/2015/03/brian-wansink-cornell-junk-food-health" target="_blank">profiling</a> him for <em>Mother Jones</em> last year, he's not exactly your typical Ivy League professor. Wansink is a passionate libertarian&mdash;who also did a stint working for the US Department of Agriculture. While he can't stand anything that smacks of food elitism&mdash;Taco Bell is one of his favorite restaurants, and he drinks six diet sodas a day&mdash;he earns grudging respect from foodie heroes like Mark Bittman and Marion Nestle.&nbsp;</p> <p>Wansink is also incredibly prolific&mdash;he always has his hands in&nbsp;a new project. We wondered what he'd been up to lately, so we invited him back to be the guest of honor on the very first episode of our <a href="http://www.motherjones.com/category/secondary-tags/bite" target="_blank">new food podcast, <em>Bite</em></a>.</p> <div class="art19-web-player awp-medium awp-theme-dark-orange" data-episode-id="83d23711-54df-498b-b368-d951a9ad21b8">&nbsp;</div> <script src="https://d2nx6ydw3e5y5d.cloudfront.net/assets/current.js" type="text/javascript"></script><p>He tells us how selling fruit door to door as a kid growing up in Iowa set him on his career path, and he explains why you might want to opt for a&nbsp;"scenic walk" instead of an "exercise walk."&nbsp;He also catches us up on his latest research project, which involves Norwegian supermarket carts.</p> <div class="sidebar-large-right"><a href="http://www.motherjones.com/environment/2015/03/9-ways-eat-better-without-really-trying" target="_blank"><strong>9 Ways to Eat Better Without Really Trying</strong></a> <div class="inline inline-center" style="display: table; width: 1%"><a href="http://www.motherjones.com/environment/2015/03/9-ways-eat-better-without-really-trying" target="_blank"><img alt="donut" class="image" src="/files/donut-270.jpg"></a></div> </div> <p>But wait, there's more to the inaugural episode of <em>Bite</em> than just this fascinating character! You'll also hear about a brand new lobbying group for makers of plant-based foods (like vegan tuna fish), and why you may want to rethink your recipe for green St. Patrick's Day cupcakes.</p> <p>We hope you enjoy! And please <a href="http://www.motherjones.com/category/secondary-tags/bite" target="_blank">subscribe,</a> because we'll be back in two weeks with more savory insights.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p></body></html> Blue Marble Podcasts Food Bite Fri, 11 Mar 2016 11:00:33 +0000 Kiera Butler 299046 at http://www.motherjones.com The US Solar Market Is Growing Ridiculously Fast http://www.motherjones.com/blue-marble/2016/03/us-solar-market-growing-ridiculously-fast <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" "http://www.w3.org/TR/REC-html40/loose.dtd"> <html><body><p>At the end of 2015, the solar industry experienced something of a <a href="http://www.motherjones.com/environment/2015/12/solar-industry-christmas-miracle" target="_blank">Christmas miracle</a> when Congress unexpectedly extended a package of vital tax credits for renewable energy that were set to expire. Overnight, 2016 went from looking like it was certain to be a bust to looking like one of the biggest growth years on record.</p> <p>New analysis from the <a href="https://cleantechnica.com/2016/03/09/us-solar-market-set-grow-119-2016/" target="_blank">energy market research firm GTM</a> paints a picture of the awesome year solar installers in the United States have ahead of them. GTM predicts solar installations to jump 119 percent in 2016, adding 16 gigawatts of new solar by year's end. (For reference, in 2011 there were only <a href="http://www.eia.gov/electricity/monthly/epm_table_grapher.cfm?t=epmt_6_01_a" target="_blank">10 gigawatts</a> of solar installed <em>total</em> across the country.) Most of that is utility-scale solar farms, with the remainder coming from rooftop panels on homes and businesses.</p> <p>This clean energy boost isn't just a boon for the industry; as a result of the tax credit extension, greenhouse gas savings from solar and wind installations could add up by 2030 to the equivalent of taking every car in the country off the road for two years, a <a href="http://www.motherjones.com/environment/2016/02/congress-actually-did-something-pretty-great-climate-change" target="_blank">recent study found</a>.</p> <p>Here's the chart from the report. Show this to anyone who still thinks solar is some kind of fringe, hippie pipe dream:</p> <div class="inline inline-center" style="display: table; width: 1%"><img alt="" class="image" src="/files/GTM-50.jpg"><div class="caption">GTM Research/SEIA</div> </div></body></html> Blue Marble Charts Climate Change Climate Desk Energy Infrastructure Wed, 09 Mar 2016 19:33:07 +0000 Tim McDonnell 299036 at http://www.motherjones.com The Doctor and the Mom Who Helped Expose the Flint Crisis Just Won a Major Award http://www.motherjones.com/blue-marble/2016/03/mom-and-doctor-who-helped-expose-flint-crisis-just-won-major-award <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" "http://www.w3.org/TR/REC-html40/loose.dtd"> <html><body><p>Two women <a href="http://www.motherjones.com/politics/2016/01/mother-exposed-flint-lead-contamination-water-crisis" target="_blank">profiled by <em>Mother Jones</em></a> for helping to expose the water crisis in Flint, Michigan, will receive awards from the prominent free speech and literary group <a href="http://pen.org/press-release/2016/03/04/pen-america-honor-flint-mother-and-local-doctor-speaking-out-expose?utm_source=Master+List&amp;utm_campaign=67a5c471a5-Sidney_s_Picks_6-30-15&amp;utm_medium=email&amp;utm_term=0_f29e31a404-67a5c471a5-164751401" target="_blank">PEN America</a>. The organization <a href="http://pen.org/press-release/2016/03/04/pen-america-honor-flint-mother-and-local-doctor-speaking-out-expose?utm_source=Master+List&amp;utm_campaign=67a5c471a5-Sidney_s_Picks_6-30-15&amp;utm_medium=email&amp;utm_term=0_f29e31a404-67a5c471a5-164751401" target="_blank">announced today</a> that it will grant Freedom of Expression Courage Awards to advocate LeeAnne Walters and pediatrician Mona Hanna-Attisha.&nbsp;</p> <p>Walters, a stay-at-home mother of four, demanded that the city test her water for lead after her family kept<strong>&nbsp;</strong>getting rashes and developing other new symptoms. While researching Flint's water system, Walters uncovered critical holes in the city's water treatment protocols that she took to the Environmental Protection Agency. Her four-year-old son, Gavin, was later diagnosed with elevated lead levels that could have irreversible neurological impacts.</p> <p>After Hanna-Attisha, a pediatrician at Flint's Hurley Medical Center, heard rumors of lead in the city's water system, she started studying the blood lead levels of Flint children before and after the change in water supplies. She found that <a href="http://www.motherjones.com/environment/2015/12/flint-lead-water-state-emergency" target="_blank">blood lead levels</a> had doubled and even tripled after the switch. "She bypassed standard channels to take on a malevolent state bureaucracy, undermining its assertion of official inviolability," says Andrew Solomon, president of PEN America, which granted last year's award to French publication <em>Charlie Hebdo</em>. "In speaking truth to power, she has saved innumerable lives."</p> <p>According to PEN executive director Suzanne Nossel, the awards were inspired in part by a <em>Mother Jones</em> <a href="http://www.motherjones.com/politics/2016/01/mother-exposed-flint-lead-contamination-water-crisis" target="_blank">profile</a> of Walters from January. "<em>Mother Jones</em>' account of LeeAnne Walters' dogged struggle to expose the truth about Flint's poisoned water supply underscored for us the essential role that citizens' voices play in cutting through official denials breaking open stories of immense public importance," Nossel wrote. "The tale of LeeAnne's tenacity inspired us as a model of courage in the exercise of free expression."</p></body></html> Blue Marble Health Fri, 04 Mar 2016 23:25:04 +0000 Julia Lurie 298746 at http://www.motherjones.com This New Solar Cell Is 50 Times Thinner Than a Human Hair http://www.motherjones.com/blue-marble/2016/03/thinnest-lightest-solar-cells <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" "http://www.w3.org/TR/REC-html40/loose.dtd"> <html><body><p>This is really cool: Big brains at MIT recently announced they have created the world's thinnest and lightest solar cell&mdash;so light it can sit atop a soap bubble without breaking it. The world-first design is, however, eye-popping:</p> <ul><li>The new cell is just 1.3 micrometers&mdash;one-fiftieth the thickness of a human hair.</li> <li>It is one-thousandth the thickness of an equivalent glass-based solar cell&mdash;the ones you are probably most familiar with.</li> <li>Pound for pound, the new cells generate 400 times the power of traditional cells.</li> <li>The cell is made from an incredibly flexible cling wrap-like plastic called "parylene"&mdash;potentially giving rise to solar panels stitched invisibly into our everyday lives.</li> </ul><p>MIT's design is only lab-tested, for now. Scaling up the invention for commercial use could take years. But the proof-of-concept is already exciting the scientists&mdash;professor Vladimir Bulovi&Auml;&#135;, research scientist Annie Wang, and doctoral student Joel Jean. They are publishing their findings <a href="http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S1566119916300222" target="_blank">in an upcoming issue of the journal <em>Organic Electronics</em></a>.</p> <p>"It could be so light that you don't even know it's there, on your shirt or on your notebook," Bulovi&Auml;&#135; <a href="http://news.mit.edu/2016/ultrathin-flexible-solar-cells-0226" target="_blank">said in a news release</a>. The release also describes how the scientists came up with an innovative process that grows the "substrate" (the layer the cell is built on) and the solar cell itself&mdash; both at the same time.</p> <p>"How many miracles does it take to make it scalable?" Bulovi&Auml;&#135; said. "We think it's a lot of hard work ahead, but likely no miracles needed."</p> <div class="inline inline-left" style="display: table; width: 1%"><img alt="" class="image" src="/files/MIT-Ultrathin-Solar-2.jpg" style="height: 420px; width: 630px;"><div class="caption">Joel Jean and Anna Osherov/MIT</div> </div></body></html> Blue Marble Climate Change Climate Desk Energy Science Tue, 01 Mar 2016 17:32:23 +0000 James West 298276 at http://www.motherjones.com These Cities Are Falling Behind in the Fight Against Climate Change http://www.motherjones.com/blue-marble/2016/02/developing-cities-climate-change <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" "http://www.w3.org/TR/REC-html40/loose.dtd"> <html><body><p>The headline negotiations during the Paris climate summit in December were between national governments: What would China, the United States, and other big emitters be willing to do? But just outside the spotlight, some of the most optimistic commitments to curb greenhouse gas emissions, ramp up clean energy, and invest in adaptive measures were being made by cities.</p> <p>A new <a href="http://www.nature.com/nclimate/journal/vaop/ncurrent/full/nclimate2944.html" target="_blank">analysis</a> from social scientists at University College London sheds some new light on the money behind those municipal efforts&mdash;and the results paint a highly uneven picture. The researchers compared spending&nbsp;on climate adaptation in 10 major global cities&mdash;that is, investments in infrastructure, public health, water systems, etc., aimed at making them more resistant to climate change. All 10 cities are members of the <a href="http://www.compactofmayors.org/cities/" target="_blank">Compact of Mayors</a>, an initiative to hold cities to a high standard of climate action.</p> <p>On average among those 10 cities, spending on climate adaptation accounted for one-fifth of one percent of GDP in 2015, or about $855 million. Not surprisingly, cities in wealthier countries such the US and the UK spent far more than cities in African countries and Southeast Asia:</p> <div class="inline inline-center" style="display: table; width: 1%"><img alt="" class="image" src="/files/spend-total.jpg"><div class="caption">Nature</div> </div> <p>Cities in developing countries also lag behind on spending on a per-capita basis. (The Paris figure is so high in part because the study counted population just within a city's official boundaries, not the surrounding metropolitan area, and Paris' boundaries are relatively small)&hellip;</p> <div class="inline inline-center" style="display: table; width: 1%"><img alt="" class="image" src="/files/spend-capita.jpg"><div class="caption">Nature</div> </div> <p>...and as a share of GDP:</p> <div class="inline inline-center" style="display: table; width: 1%"><img alt="" class="image" src="/files/spend-percent.jpg"><div class="caption">Nature</div> </div> <p>The findings illustrate that spending on climate adaptation is more a function of wealth, and the value of local real estate, than the size of a city's population or its <a href="http://www.motherjones.com/environment/2013/08/map-top-cities-billion-dollar-floods" target="_blank">relative vulnerability to climate impacts</a>. The researchers conclude that "current adaptation activities are insufficient in major population centres in developing and emerging economies."</p> <p>That may not be very surprising&mdash;of course New York and London will be better able to rally funds for climate readiness than Addis Ababa. But it's an important snapshot of the uphill battle developing countries face in confronting climate change.</p> <p><em>This post has been updated. </em></p></body></html> Blue Marble Charts Climate Change Climate Desk Science Infrastructure Tue, 01 Mar 2016 15:30:41 +0000 Tim McDonnell 298181 at http://www.motherjones.com China Slashes Coal Use and Greenhouse Gas Emissions for the Second Year in a Row http://www.motherjones.com/blue-marble/2016/02/china-coal-emissions-drop-jobs <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" "http://www.w3.org/TR/REC-html40/loose.dtd"> <html><body><p>China is continuing to drag itself off coal&mdash;the dirty energy source that has made it the world's biggest greenhouse gas emitter. Figures published Sunday night by China's National Bureau of Statistics showed coal consumption dropping 3.7 percent in 2015, marking the second year in a row that the country has slashed coal use and greenhouse gas emissions.</p> <p>To put that in perspective, Greenpeace East Asia <a href="http://www.greenpeace.org/eastasia/press/releases/climate-energy/2016/Chinas-CO2-emissions-continued-to-fall-in-2015--Greenpeace-response/" target="_blank">says</a> China's drop in coal use over the past two years is equal to Japan's total annual coal consumption&mdash;a trend the environmental group says could "far surpass" China's commitments enshrined in the Paris climate deal reached in December. Last year, China's carbon emissions dropped 1-2 percent, Greenpeace says, a decline the group attributes to both falling economic output from China's heavy industries and an upswing in renewable energy use. China is widely expected to meet or surpass its goal of "peaking" emissions (the point at which the country begins to permanently reduce its greenhouse gas emissions) by 2030.</p> <p>But the shift away from coal will also hit the country's workers hard: The government plans to slash 1.8 million jobs in the steel and coal industries&mdash;about 15 percent of the workforce in those sectors, <a href="http://www.theguardian.com/business/2016/feb/29/china-to-cut-jobs-in-coal-and-steel-sectors" target="_blank">according to Reuters</a>. The government says it has a $15.27 billion plan over 10 years to relocate these workers.</p> <p>Today's news follows China's promise of a three-year moratorium on all new coal mines. The country also plans to <a href="http://www.reuters.com/article/us-china-energy-coal-idUSKCN0VV0U5" target="_blank">shutter 1,000 existing coal mines this year alone</a>, with deeper cuts to come. All of this has been accompanied by massive investments in wind and solar that have made the country's renewable energy firms <a href="http://www.motherjones.com/environment/2016/02/china-wind-power-america" target="_blank">world-leaders in clean power</a>.</p> <p>But with China&mdash;the world's second largest economy&mdash;there is always a disclaimer. It's right to be skeptical of official economic and energy statistics coming from China, which some <a href="http://www.nytimes.com/2016/02/26/business/international/china-data-slowing-economy.html" target="_blank">experts say can be subject to political pressure.</a></p> <p>Still, there are some undeniable signs of progress. The last major coal-fired power station in Beijing is expected to <a href="http://english.cntv.cn/2015/05/23/VIDE1432369812696216.shtml" target="_blank">close this year</a>, welcome news to residents of a city that is frequently blanketed in toxic smog.</p></body></html> Blue Marble China Climate Change Climate Desk Mon, 29 Feb 2016 17:15:11 +0000 James West 298131 at http://www.motherjones.com This GOP Congressman’s Crusade Against Scientists Just Got Even More Insane http://www.motherjones.com/blue-marble/2016/02/lamar-smith-noaa-search-terms <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" "http://www.w3.org/TR/REC-html40/loose.dtd"> <html><body><p>Congressman Lamar Smith's crusade against the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration keeps getting weirder.</p> <p>Smith (R-Texas), who chairs the House Committee on Science, Space, and Technology, suspects that NOAA scientists may have <a href="http://www.motherjones.com/kevin-drum/2015/11/disgrace-lamar-smith-and-house-science-committee" target="_blank">"changed"</a> climate research data to make it appear as though a possible slowdown in global warming over the last decade-and-a-half didn't really happen. In other words, the congressman seems to believe that government scientists somehow manipulated the facts in order to support President Barack Obama's climate agenda.</p> <p>It turns out that the scientific debate over the extent to which climate change took a so-called "hiatus" is far from settled and extends far beyond NOAA's research. Chris Mooney at the <em>Washington Post </em>has a detailed rundown of the latest research on this surprisingly difficult question <a href="https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/energy-environment/wp/2016/02/24/top-scientists-insist-global-warming-really-did-slow-down-in-the-2000s/" target="_blank">here</a>. Of course, the basic existence of man-made global warming is not in dispute by scientists, Smith's opinion notwithstanding.</p> <p>But in any case, Smith is determined to get to the bottom of what he sees as an insidious plot by NOAA to falsify research. His original subpoena for internal communications, issued last October, has been followed by a <a href="http://www.slate.com/blogs/bad_astronomy/2015/10/26/global_warming_lamar_smith_wants_to_tie_noaa_in_knots.html" target="_blank">series of letters</a> to Obama administration officials in NOAA and other agencies demanding information and expressing frustration that NOAA has not been sufficiently forthcoming. In December, for example, he <a href="https://science.house.gov/sites/republicans.science.house.gov/files/documents/12-1-15%20SST%20Letter%20to%20Secretary%20Pritzker.pdf" target="_blank">wrote</a> to Commerce Secretary Penny Pritzker complaining that NOAA showed a "pattern of failing to act in good faith." (NOAA is part of the Commerce Department.)</p> <p>Now, a <a href="https://s3.amazonaws.com/ucs-documents/science-and-democracy/2-22-16-sst-letter-to-administrator-sullivan.pdf" target="_blank">new letter</a> gives some insight as to his specific grievances: Smith claims that NOAA's internal search for documents responsive to the subpoena has been "unnecessarily narrow," limited only to documents containing the terms "hiatus," "haitus," "global temperature," and "climate study." A NOAA spokesperson confirmed that those were the only search terms the agency used to find the relevant documents. On Monday, Smith asked NOAA to expand that field to include the words below ("Karl" presumably refers to Thomas Karl, the NOAA scientist behind the <a href="http://www.noaanews.noaa.gov/stories2015/noaa-analysis-journal-science-no-slowdown-in-global-warming-in-recent-years.html" target="_blank">research</a> Smith is interested in):</p> <div class="inline inline-center" style="display: table; width: 1%"><img alt="" class="image" src="/files/Screen%20Shot%202016-02-26%20at%203.13.04%20PM.png"></div> <p>In Smith's defense, NOAA's four terms (three, really, since one is just a misspelling of another) are incredibly narrow and, if there really was any scientific malfeasance, would quite possibly miss it. At the same time, the new list further illuminates what Smith is really after: Some evidence of a nefarious political conspiracy involving Obama, the United Nations, the Paris climate agreement, and temperature buoys.</p> <p>Sure, NOAA should be transparent about its activities. But the whole thing seems more and more like a wild goose chase by Smith&mdash;I'm not holding my breath for any bombshell revelations.</p></body></html> Blue Marble Climate Change Climate Desk Congress Science Fri, 26 Feb 2016 21:54:33 +0000 Tim McDonnell 297981 at http://www.motherjones.com The Bright Future Ahead for Electric Vehicles, in 4 Charts http://www.motherjones.com/blue-marble/2016/02/electric-vehicles-oil-prices <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" "http://www.w3.org/TR/REC-html40/loose.dtd"> <html><body><p>Last month, Elon Musk predicted that the electric vehicle industry will <a href="http://money.cnn.com/2016/01/25/autos/elon-musk-oil-prices-china/" target="_blank">"definitely suffer"</a> from low oil prices&mdash;a barrel of crude is about <a href="http://www.cnbc.com/2016/02/23/oil-prices-fall-as-opec-producers-squabble-over-output-targets.html" target="_blank">$33 today</a>, down from more than $100 a year ago. Why invest in an electric car when gas is so cheap? And sure enough, sales of gas-guzzling SUVs <a href="http://money.cnn.com/2015/12/04/autos/gas-prices-suv-pickup-sales/?iid=EL" target="_blank">jumped 10 percent</a> in 2015, while electric vehicle sales <a href="http://electricdrive.org/index.php?ht=d/sp/i/20952/pid/20952" target="_blank">dipped 4 percent</a>.</p> <p>But don't expect that trend to last, even if oil prices stay relatively low. A new market forecast from Bloomberg New Energy Finance paints a rosy picture for the future of electric vehicles, rising from about 1 percent of global annual vehicle sales today to 35 percent by 2040&mdash;about 41 million cars. That's good news for Musk and other scions of clean energy. Whether it's good news for the planet remains to be seen (more on that below).</p> <p>Here are a few of the report's main predictions. First, the increase in sales is projected to really pick up after 2025. Green represents electric vehicles (BEV is fully electric battery vehicles like the Nissan Leaf; PHEV is plug-in hybrids like the Toyota Prius); gray is all other types of light-duty cars.&nbsp;</p> <div class="inline inline-center" style="display: table; width: 1%"><img alt="" class="image" src="/files/sales.jpg"><div class="caption">BNEF</div> </div> <p>The report identifies a few factors driving electric vehicle adoption: increasing use of tax breaks and other supportive government policies; rapidly declining costs of batteries (the most expensive component compared with normal internal combustion engine cars); and the declining lifetime cost of ownership of EVs compared with normal cars. The last one is where the cost of fuel comes in; BNEF uses a low-end oil price estimate from the Energy Information Administration that puts oil between $50 and $75 per barrel. Prices much lower than that would slow down, though not totally halt, the growth of EVs, BNEF found.</p> <p>As technology improves and more cars are sold, the cost of batteries will come down dramatically, BNEF found, as will the overall cost of electric vehicles (including their lifetime fuel consumption). Ultimately, EVs could become less expensive than internal-combustion vehicles between 2020 and 2030, according to BNEF.</p> <p>China is likely to be the biggest EV customer:</p> <div class="inline inline-center" style="display: table; width: 1%"><img alt="" class="image" src="/files/country-sales.jpg"><div class="caption">BNEF</div> </div> <p>So is this good news for the climate? That depends on where the power for all these new EVs comes from. BNEF finds that EVs will save about 13 million barrels of oil by 2040, equal to about 14 percent of the total oil market in 2016. But p<a href="http://www.motherjones.com/environment/2015/07/where-electric-vehicles-actually-cause-more-pollution-gas-cars-0" target="_blank">revious research has found</a> that in places that rely mostly on coal-fired power plants for electricity, electric vehicles can have a bigger carbon footprint than regular cars. BNEF predicts EVs will create a surge in demand for electricity:</p> <div class="inline inline-center" style="display: table; width: 1%"><img alt="" class="image" src="/files/electricity.jpg"><div class="caption">BNEF</div> </div> <p>Fortunately, clean energy is providing a lot more of the global growth in electricity production than fossil fuels. BNEF has previously projected that about 70 percent of the new electricity generation added by 2030 will be in the form of wind, solar, and other clean sources, not including nuclear. In other words, these EVs are more likely to run on clean energy than on fossil fuels.</p> <p>But that's not the end of the story. There's also a heavy environmental and humanitarian impact from producing the minerals needed to build all those batteries. Demand for cobalt, lithium, and other key minerals is projected to surge:</p> <div class="inline inline-center" style="display: table; width: 1%"><img alt="" class="image" src="/files/mineral-demand.jpg"><div class="caption">BNEF</div> </div> <p>A <a href="https://www.amnesty.org/en/latest/news/2016/01/Child-labour-behind-smart-phone-and-electric-car-batteries/" target="_blank">recent report from Amnesty International</a> found that cobalt mining is often linked to child labor, particularly in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, one of the world's leading producers of cobalt. Lithium mining <a href="https://www.foeeurope.org/sites/default/files/publications/13_factsheet-lithium-gb.pdf" target="_blank">has been linked to water pollution and depletion</a>, particularly in South America.</p> <p>Musk can rest assured that he'll have a market for Tesla's electric cars for years to come. But in order for that to be a win for the planet, the rest of the clean-energy industry&mdash;and international standards for mining&mdash;will need to pick up the pace as well.</p> <p><em>This post has been updated. </em></p></body></html> Blue Marble Charts Climate Change Climate Desk Energy Tech Top Stories Infrastructure Thu, 25 Feb 2016 10:00:09 +0000 Tim McDonnell 297736 at http://www.motherjones.com We Have Some Bad News for You About Pretty Much Everywhere http://www.motherjones.com/blue-marble/2016/02/sea-level-rise-real-bad <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" "http://www.w3.org/TR/REC-html40/loose.dtd"> <html><body><p>Humans are causing sea levels to rise at the fastest rate in nearly 3,000 years, according to a series of scientific reports released Monday. What's more, the new research concludes that this acceleration is already resulting in increased flooding in US coastal communities.</p> <p>The increase in sea level rise is really quite dramatic, as this chart <a href="http://www.climatecentral.org/news/study-reveals-acceleration-of-sea-level-rise-20055" target="_blank">from Climate Central</a> illustrates:</p> <blockquote class="twitter-tweet" data-lang="en"> <p dir="ltr" lang="en">There are human fingerprints on thousands of U.S. &mdash; and global &mdash; coastal floods <a href="https://t.co/1uZoocfCXS">https://t.co/1uZoocfCXS</a> <a href="https://t.co/w8lfX2upYU">pic.twitter.com/w8lfX2upYU</a></p> &mdash; Climate Central (@ClimateCentral) <a href="https://twitter.com/ClimateCentral/status/701905132993306624">February 22, 2016</a></blockquote> <script async src="//platform.twitter.com/widgets.js" charset="utf-8"></script><p>The impact of that change is already being felt by Americans. From the <a href="http://www.nytimes.com/2016/02/23/science/sea-level-rise-global-warming-climate-change.html" target="_blank"><em>New York Times</em></a>:</p> <blockquote> <p>[Scientists] also confirmed previous forecasts that if emissions were to continue at a high rate over the next few decades, the ocean could rise as much as three or four feet by 2100&hellip;The rise in the sea level contributes only in a limited degree to the huge, disastrous storm surges accompanying hurricanes like Katrina and Sandy. Proportionally, it has a bigger effect on the nuisance floods that can accompany what are known as king tides&hellip;The change in frequency of those tides is striking. For instance, in the decade from 1955 to 1964 at Annapolis, Md., an instrument called a tide gauge measured 32 days of flooding; in the decade from 2005 to 2014, that jumped to 394 days.</p> </blockquote> <p>Here's another great Climate Central tool that lets you see the impact in a selection of the most vulnerable coastal cities:</p> <p><iframe scrolling="no" src="http://www.climatecentral.org/wgts/human-caused-flooding/index.html?utm_source=Mother%20Jones%20Climate%20Desk&amp;utm_medium=embed&amp;utm_campaign=2016HumanCausedFlooding" style="overflow: hidden; border:0; width:600px; height:446px"></iframe></p> <p>Scary as this all is, it's further proof that the leading GOP candidates for president are living in a fantasy world. Florida Sen. Marco Rubio, despite representing perhaps the most vulnerable state, <a href="http://www.motherjones.com/environment/2016/01/marco-rubio-climate-change-florida" target="_blank">doesn't want to do anything about climate change</a>. Donald Trump and Ted Cruz deny the problem even exists. But it's a fact that the US economy has a direct stake, today, in slowing climate change and preparing for its impacts. Every study like this that comes out makes it more ridiculous, and dangerous, to pretend that isn't the case.&nbsp;</p></body></html> Blue Marble Charts Climate Change Climate Desk Science Tue, 23 Feb 2016 16:56:37 +0000 Tim McDonnell 297601 at http://www.motherjones.com Are Cage-Free Eggs All They're Cracked Up to Be? http://www.motherjones.com/blue-marble/2016/02/corporations-are-going-cage-free-whats-next-hens <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" "http://www.w3.org/TR/REC-html40/loose.dtd"> <html><body><p>Cage-free eggs, once a niche product for ethically minded (and well-off) shoppers, are suddenly a hot commodity with an unlikely customer: Big Food. <a href="http://www.businesswire.com/news/home/20160201005160/en/SONIC-Announces-Timeline-Source-Serve-100-Cage-Free" target="_blank">Sonic</a> and <a href="http://www.hsi.org/news/press_releases/2016/02/burger-king-global-cage-free-egg-commitment-020116.html" target="_blank">Burger King</a> are the latest to join a slate of<strong> </strong>companies promising to ditch eggs produced by caged hens.</p> <p>They follow an unlikely trailblazer: McDonald's, which <a href="https://www.google.com/webhp?sourceid=chrome-instant&amp;ion=1&amp;espv=2&amp;ie=UTF-8#q=mcdonalds%20cage%20free" target="_blank">announced in September</a> that it would go cage-free by the end of 2025. That decision unleashed a "<a href="http://civileats.com/2016/01/28/what-you-need-to-know-about-the-corporate-shift-to-cage-free-eggs/" target="_blank">tidal wave</a> of commitments," says Paul Shapiro, vice president of farm animal protection at the Humane Society of the United States. The list now includes most major American fast-food chains, retailers including Target and Walmart, and&nbsp;food service providers, like Aramark and Sodexo.</p> <p>Although the number of cage-free birds increased 37 percent last year, they remain less than 10 percent of the nation's 277 million hens, <a href="http://www.aeb.org/farmers-and-marketers/industry-overview" target="_blank">according to</a> the US Department of Agriculture. Now large egg producers are <a href="http://www.wattagnet.com/articles/24914-us-cage-free-egg-layer-flock-is-rapidly-increasing" target="_blank">scrambling</a> to catch up by investing in new cage-free facilities&mdash;a swift about-face for an industry that once vehemently fought efforts to eliminate the cramped, paper-sized&nbsp;"<a href="http://www.humanesociety.org/issues/confinement_farm/facts/battery_cages.html" target="_blank">battery cages</a>" in which the vast majority of hens spend their lives. In 2008, when California voted on <a href="https://ballotpedia.org/California_Proposition_2,_Standards_for_Confining_Farm_Animals_%282008%29" target="_blank">Proposition 2</a>, a measure that mandated that hens should be able to fully spread their wings "without touching the side of an enclosure or other egg-laying hens," United Egg Producers, the industry's primary trade group, spent $10 million in a failed effort to defeat the initiative.<strong> </strong>But this October, UEP President Chad Gregory told <em>Politico </em>that the group <a href="http://www.politico.com/story/2015/09/egg-industry-hands-animal-advocates-big-win-in-cage-free-fight-213905" target="_blank">wouldn't put up a fight</a> in Massachusetts, where a measure modeled after California's will be on the ballot in November.</p> <div class="inline inline-right" style="display: table; width: 1%"><strike><img alt="" class="image" src="/files/Screen%20Shot%202016-02-02%20at%201.18.42%20PM.png"></strike> <div class="caption"><strong><a href="http://www.motherjones.com/tom-philpott/2015/01/you-cant-produce-eggs-industrial-scale-without-breaking-few-hens" target="_blank">What does cage-free really mean</a>? </strong></div> </div> <p>Most companies, including McDonald's, have given egg producers up to a decade to change how they house their hens. As <em>Wired</em> <a href="http://www.wired.com/2016/01/the-insanely-complicated-logistics-of-cage-free-eggs-for-all/" target="_blank">charts</a> in detail, the industry is choosing to gradually phase out, rather than dismantle, a production system that's been designed since the 1950s to provide maximum efficiency. Today, Americans demand 6 billion to 7 billion eggs each month, and they expect every dozen to come relatively cheap.</p> <p>That means that while cage-free is often portrayed as a nostalgic return to pre-mechanized farming, the newest egg facilities are not like your grandfather's bucolic little chicken farm. At nonorganic farms, where outdoor access isn't required, large egg producers are primarily <a href="http://www.wattagnet.com/articles/24914-us-cage-free-egg-layer-flock-is-rapidly-increasing" target="_blank">building</a> multitiered aviaries&mdash;stacked arrangements in which thousands, if not tens of thousands of birds roam throughout the barn, hopping from level to level. "There are birds by your feet, your knees, your shoulders&mdash;cities of birds," explains Shapiro.</p> <p>Giving hens the simple ability to move around prevents many of the worst health problems associated with battery cages, Shapiro says, by strengthening brittle bones and allowing them to act on their natural instincts to roost and forage.</p> <p>But in these large, industrial aviaries, the birds "don't typically go outside," says Shapiro. And letting a flock of birds roam within a closed, confined aviary presents its own concerns.<strong> </strong>A three-year <a href="http://www2.sustainableeggcoalition.org/final-results" target="_blank">study</a> produced by a <a href="http://www2.sustainableeggcoalition.org/" target="_blank">consortium</a> of egg providers, academics, and advocacy groups found that aviaries had nearly twice the death rate of caged systems. Most of the difference had to do with aggression between the birds and outbreaks of cannibalism.</p> <p>Cannibalism is a learned behavior, a nasty symptom of industrial breeding and housing, says Joy Mench, an animal behavior specialist at the University of California-Davis who co-led the study. Outbreaks are more likely to flare up in densely stocked aviaries, where hens are given unfettered access to other birds. And for that reason, aviary managers continue to rely on the standard industry practice to lessen the risks of pecking: cutting off the sharp tips of the hens' beaks.</p> <p>Reduced air quality in the closed barns is another concern for both birds and workers, who need to spend more time managing the hens in a cage-free system. In battery cage systems, birds were separated from their waste. Without that separation, ammonia buildup can occur when feces aren't removed in a timely fashion, particularly in cold climates. But the most acute problem is that a moving flock clogs the air with dust.<strong> </strong>"There were days when you could hardly stand to walk into that aviary," says Mench, referring to the Midwestern egg facility where the study was conducted. "You couldn't see 4 feet in front of your face."</p> <p>Additionally,<strong> </strong>in both caged and uncaged systems, disease spreads like wildfire.<strong> </strong>Last year's avian flu outbreak, which <a href="http://www.motherjones.com/tom-philpott/2015/04/avian-flu-bites-us-poultry-industry" target="_blank">killed millions of hens</a> and sent egg prices skyrocketing, is thought to have originated in backyard flocks but took its heaviest toll as it blazed through crowded industrial barns.</p> <p>"People are going to love that they are cage-free, but you have to look at the whole system," says Janice Swanson, a professor at Michigan State University and a co-author of the study. "It's going to be a lot of work before cage-free is environmentally sustainable and actually does what we want it to do for the hens."</p> <p>The study suggested that bigger, so-called <a href="http://www.bhwt.org.uk/egg-industry/enriched-cages/" target="_blank">"enriched" cages</a>, with room for the multiple birds to move and exhibit more natural behaviors, may be a better bet for health and safety than aviaries. Those systems are legal under California law, which didn't ban cages but instead mandated minimum space requirements. But since they don't meet the corporate cage-free pledges, egg producers don't have an incentive to build them.</p> <p>So while cage-free systems remove many of the inherent cruelties of battery cages, the welfare of the hens inside them hinges on how these facilities,&nbsp;which can range from packed industrial aviaries to smaller farms with ample space and outdoor access,<strong> </strong>are designed and managed. That can be difficult to decipher from the labels on an egg carton.</p> <p>If you're looking to further mitigate the cruelty behind your next omelet, the Humane Society <a href="http://www.humanesociety.org/issues/confinement_farm/facts/guide_egg_labels.html?referrer=https://www.google.com/" target="_blank">recommends</a> looking past labels like "vegetarian-fed," "natural," or "farm fresh," which are stamped on cartons for marketing purposes. Pasture-raised, certified organic, or free-range are typically better bets for eggs produced by a happier, healthier hen&mdash;if you can stomach the higher cost.</p> <div class="inline inline-left" style="display: table; width: 1%"><img alt="" class="image" src="/files/how-to-read-egg-label-full.jpg"></div> <p>&nbsp;</p></body></html> Blue Marble Food Regulatory Affairs Wed, 10 Feb 2016 11:00:09 +0000 Gregory Barber 295521 at http://www.motherjones.com The Supreme Court Just Dealt a Huge Blow to Obama's Climate Plan http://www.motherjones.com/blue-marble/2016/02/supreme-court-obama-climate-plan-epa <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" "http://www.w3.org/TR/REC-html40/loose.dtd"> <html><body><p>In a setback&nbsp;for the Obama administration, the Supreme Court on Tuesday temporarily halted enforcement of Obama's signature climate initiative.</p> <p>The Clean Power Plan, issued by the Environmental Protection Agency last summer, requires states to limit coal-fired power plant emissions&mdash;the nation's largest source of greenhouse gases&mdash;by a third by 2030. The regulation was expected to revamp the energy industry in the coming decades, shutting down coal-fired plants and speeding up renewable energy production. But 29 states, together with dozens of industry groups, <a href="https://www.edf.org/sites/default/files/content/2016.01.26_wv_et_al._scotus_stay_application.pdf" target="_blank">sued the EPA</a>, claiming the rule was&nbsp;"the most far-reaching and burdensome rule the EPA has ever forced onto the states."</p> <p>In a 5-4 vote today, the Supreme Court issued an unusual, one-page&nbsp;emergency order for the EPA to put the plan on hold until the US Court of Appeals, which will hear the case this summer, comes to a decision. While the hold is temporary, <a href="http://www.nytimes.com/2016/02/10/us/politics/supreme-court-blocks-obama-epa-coal-emissions-regulations.html?_r=0" target="_blank">many</a> <a href="http://www.latimes.com/nation/la-na-court-obama-climate-change-20160209-story.html" target="_blank">see</a> <a href="http://www.vox.com/2016/2/9/10955470/supreme-court-blocks-obama-co2-rules" target="_blank">the order</a> as a sign that the Supreme Court has concerns about the policy.</p> <div class="inline inline-left" style="display: table; width: 1%"><img alt="" class="image" src="/files/sup-court-stay-final.png"></div> <p>&nbsp;</p></body></html> Blue Marble Energy Wed, 10 Feb 2016 00:42:04 +0000 Julia Lurie 296436 at http://www.motherjones.com Obama Wants to Raise Your Gas Prices to Pay for Trains http://www.motherjones.com/blue-marble/2016/02/obama-oil-tax <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" "http://www.w3.org/TR/REC-html40/loose.dtd"> <html><body><p>In his final State of the Union address last month, President Barack Obama <a href="http://www.motherjones.com/mojo/2016/01/read-full-text-obama-state-of-the-union" target="_blank">promised to</a> "change the way we manage our oil and coal resources, so that they better reflect the costs they impose on taxpayers and our planet." A few days later, he <a href="http://www.motherjones.com/environment/2016/01/obamas-latest-climate-crusade" target="_blank">followed through on the coal aspect of that pledge</a>, with a plan to overhaul how coal mining leases are awarded on federal land. Now, he seems ready to roll out his plan for oil.</p> <p>The president's budget proposal for his last year in office, set to be released next week, will contain a provision to place a new tax on oil, White House aides told reporters. <a href="http://www.politico.com/agenda/story/2016/02/obama-oil-tax-budget-000038" target="_blank">According to <em>Politico</em></a>:</p> <blockquote> <p>The president will propose more than $300 billion worth of investments over the next decade in mass transit, high-speed rail, self-driving cars, and other transportation approaches designed to reduce carbon emissions and congestion. To pay for it all, Obama will call for a $10 "fee" on every barrel of oil, a surcharge that would be paid by oil companies but would presumably be passed along to consumers&hellip;The fee could add as much as 25 cents a gallon to the cost of gasoline.</p> </blockquote> <p>The proposal stands virtually no chance of being adopted by Congress. Sen. James Inhofe (R-Okla.), the renowned climate change denier who also chairs the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, <a href="http://www.bloomberg.com/politics/articles/2016-02-04/obama-to-request-10-per-barrel-oil-tax-for-transportation-needs" target="_blank">said</a> in a statement, "I'm unsure why the president bothers to continue to send a budget to Congress. His proposals are not serious, and this is another one which is dead on arrival."</p> <p>Still, the idea may be helped a little by the sustained drop in oil prices, driven by a glut of supply from the Middle East and record production in the United States. Gas is already selling for less than $2 per gallon <a href="http://blogs.wsj.com/economics/2016/02/04/gas-prices-are-plunging-so-why-is-everyone-freaking-out/" target="_blank">in all but 11 states</a>, the lowest price point since 2009. Raising that cost would also be <a href="http://www.motherjones.com/environment/2016/01/oil-prices-renewables-electric-vehicles" target="_blank">a boon for electric vehicle sales</a>, which have stagnated because of low gas prices as sales of gas guzzlers have climbed.</p> <p>Obama's prospective Democratic successors, Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton, haven't weighed in on this proposal yet, although they have both been broadly supportive of his climate change agenda. But the proposal could prove to be awkward for Clinton, who has <a href="http://time.com/4176273/hillary-clinton-tax-super-wealthy/" target="_blank">promised not to raise taxes</a> on families making less than $250,000 a year.</p></body></html> Blue Marble Climate Change Climate Desk Energy Obama Fri, 05 Feb 2016 18:02:19 +0000 Tim McDonnell 296006 at http://www.motherjones.com This Chart Shows Why Your Conspiracy Theory Is Really Dumb http://www.motherjones.com/blue-marble/2016/02/you-are-wrong <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" "http://www.w3.org/TR/REC-html40/loose.dtd"> <html><body><p><em><strong>Update, 2/2/2016:</strong> Chris Bauch, an editor for PLOS ONE, said in an email that the author of the study we reported on below "should have used a different model for some of the analyses" and that the author "is working on submitting errata." Bauch added, however, that he is "pretty sure the correction will not change the conclusions&rdquo; and that he does not "foresee a retraction.&rdquo; We'll update when we know more.</em></p> <p>By now, climate change has joined the moon landing and the JFK assassination in the upper echelons of fodder for conspiracy theories. Back in 2004, Sen. James Inhofe (R-Okla.) called global warming the <a href="http://www.plosone.org/article/fetchObject.action?uri=info:doi/10.1371/journal.pone.0147905&amp;representation=PDF" target="_blank">"greatest hoax ever perpetrated on the American people."</a> A few years later, Inhofe told our own David Corn that the climate hoax was <a href="http://www.motherjones.com/politics/2014/12/james-inhofe-barbra-streisand-climate-change-hoax" target="_blank">most likely being perpetrated by Barbra Streisand</a>. Donald Trump, meanwhile, thinks it was <a href="http://www.motherjones.com/politics/2015/06/donald-trump-science-climate-change-vaccines-autism-ebola" target="_blank">"created by and for the Chinese."</a> I could go on.</p> <p>There's plenty of evidence that these conspiracy theories are garbage, starting with the <a href="http://climate.nasa.gov/scientific-consensus/" target="_blank">overwhelming scientific consensus</a> about climate science and the fact that <a href="http://www.motherjones.com/blue-marble/2016/01/2015-was-far-hottest-year-record" target="_blank">2015 was the hottest year on record</a>. But in case you're still not convinced, here's another bit of proof.</p> <p>In a new peer-reviewed <a href="http://www.plosone.org/article/fetchObject.action?uri=info:doi/10.1371/journal.pone.0147905&amp;representation=PDF" target="_blank">paper</a> in the journal <em>PLOS ONE</em>, an Oxford physicist devised a mathematical formula for the lifespan of conspiracy theories&mdash;that is, how long it would likely take for them to be publicly unveiled if they were in fact true. It's not long: In the case of climate change, it's about 27 years if you assume the cover-up is perpetrated by only published climate scientists&mdash;and just four years if you assume it includes the broader scientific community.</p> <p>The author, David Robert Grimes, found similar maximum life spans for a few other prominent conspiracy theories:</p> <div class="inline inline-center" style="display: table; width: 1%"><img alt="" class="image" src="/files/table.jpg"><div class="caption">Grimes, PLOS 2016</div> </div> <p>Let's pick, somewhat arbitrarily, preeminent climatologist <a href="http://climatechange.procon.org/sourcefiles/1988_Hansen_Senate_Testimony.pdf" target="_blank">James Hansen's 1988 testimony to Congress</a> about global warming as the beginning of the great fraud. According to Grimes' formula, climate change would have been publicly outed as a hoax by 1992 if it were carried out by a broad coalition of scientific organizations. And it would have been exposed by 2015 if it were carried out only by published climate scientists. Unless I missed something, that didn't happen. (Sorry, the "Climategate" emails <a href="http://www.motherjones.com/environment/2011/04/history-of-climategate" target="_blank">definitely don't count</a>.)</p> <div class="inline inline-left" style="display: table; width: 1%"><img alt="conspiracy chart" class="image" src="/files/journal.pone_.0147905.g002_630.png"><div class="caption"><strong>Here's how long it would take for four big conspiracies to fall apart: (a) moon landing hoax, (b) climate change hoax, (c) vaccination conspiracy, and (d) suppression of a cure for cancer. </strong><em>Grimes, PLOS 2016.</em></div> </div> <p>Grimes' model is based on the statistical probability that one person within the conspiracy (one climate scientist, for example) would intentionally or accidentally let slip the truth. The odds of that happening go up as the number of people involved in the conspiracy increase&mdash;hence the shorter life span for the climate fraud if it involved broad scientific organizations (whose membership Grimes totals at more than 400,000). To help in that analysis, Grimes studied a few actual conspiracies, including the National Security Agency's widespread spying on US citizens that was exposed by Edward Snowden.</p> <p>Anyway, climate change is not a hoax. And we did land on the moon. And there isn't a hidden cure for cancer. And you should go get your vaccinations, dammit.</p> <p><em>H/T: <a href="http://www.theskepticsguide.org/podcast/sgu/551" target="_blank">The Skeptics Guide to the Universe</a></em></p></body></html> Blue Marble Charts Climate Change Climate Desk Science Top Stories Mon, 01 Feb 2016 17:48:33 +0000 Tim McDonnell 295371 at http://www.motherjones.com