Blue Marble Feed | Mother Jones Mother Jones logo en School Lunches May Come With a Side of Gnarly Plastic Chemicals <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p>When kids dig into their cafeteria lunches, they may be getting an unwanted side dish. A new study from Stanford University's Prevention Research Center has <a href="" target="_blank">found</a> that meals served at schools may contain unsafe amounts of bisphenol A (BPA), a chemical compound that has been linked to a laundry list of health problems, including hormone disruption, ADHD, and cancer.</p> <p>BPA is widely used in plastic food packaging and can liners, but this is the first study on the compound to focus on school lunches, which often come prepackaged.</p> <p>Researcher Jennifer Hartle observed that almost all the food that her team saw in schools came in plastic or cans. "Meat came frozen, pre-packaged, pre-cooked and pre-seasoned. Salads were pre-cut and pre-bagged," she said in a statement. "Corn, peaches and green beans came in cans. The only items not packaged in plastic were oranges, apples and bananas."</p> <p>Teaming up with researchers from Johns Hopkins University, Hartle interviewed food service workers and observed cafeterias in schools around California's San Francisco Bay Area. The group compared the school food to previous studies showing how much BPA ends up in various kinds of food. They found that in school lunches, BPA concentrations depended on the meal served, but that some lunches&mdash;especially the ones made with canned fruits and vegetables rather than fresh&mdash;contained more than half the amount considered toxic in animal studies.</p> <p>The authors point out that there's already a large body of research <a href="" target="_blank">that BPA is dangerous even at low levels</a>, and that while the European Food Safety Authority only allows for 4 micrograms of BPA per kilogram of body weight per day, the United States allows 50 micrograms.</p> <p>BPA-free plastic packaging, say the authors, won't solve the problem&mdash;scientists have linked BPA alternatives to <a href="" target="_blank">a wide-range of health risks.</a> "The bottom line is more fresh fruits and vegetables," Hartle said in a statement. "There is a movement for more fresh veggies to be included in school meals, and I think this paper supports that."</p></body></html> Blue Marble Health Wed, 30 Sep 2015 18:43:32 +0000 Gabrielle Canon 285711 at Here's What You Need to Know About the Big Storm Coming for the East Coast <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p>The Northeast is in for a good soaking over the next few days from Hurricane Joaquin, which continues to gather strength as it makes a beeline for Washington, DC.</p> <p>Here's the current trajectory of the storm. The blue shaded area is where scientists at the National Hurricane Center think the storm will go over the next one to three days:</p> <div class="inline inline-center" style="display: table; width: 1%"><img alt="" class="image" src="/files/hurricane-track.jpg"><div class="caption">NHS</div> </div> <p>There's still plenty of uncertainty about where Joaquin could wind up, according to the <a href="" target="_blank">latest forecast</a> from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. There's a chance it could veer out to sea and not make landfall at all; either way, it seems certain to gain strength over the next several days. As of late this morning, the NHC director was hesitant to make specific predictions about what Northeasterners should expect to face:</p> <blockquote class="twitter-tweet" lang="en"> <p dir="ltr" lang="en">It is still too soon to specify storm surge, rain, and wind impacts that <a href="">#Joaquin</a> could cause in the U.S. <a href=""></a></p> &mdash; Dr. Rick Knabb (@NHCDirector) <a href="">September 30, 2015</a></blockquote> <script async src="//" charset="utf-8"></script><p>Still, he advised that authorities remain on high alert:</p> <blockquote class="twitter-tweet" lang="en"> <p dir="ltr" lang="en">A <a href="">#hurricane</a> watch could be required for portions of the U.S. coast as early as Thursday evening. <a href=""></a> <a href="">#Joaquin</a></p> &mdash; Dr. Rick Knabb (@NHCDirector) <a href="">September 30, 2015</a></blockquote> <script async src="//" charset="utf-8"></script><p>No matter which direction the storm goes, one thing is for sure: You're going to need an umbrella. And a jacket. And rubber boots.</p> <blockquote class="twitter-tweet" lang="en"> <p dir="ltr" lang="en">Again, even in unlikely case that <a href="">#Joaquin</a> avoids US landfall, it&rsquo;s going to rain a *lot*&hellip; latest GFS hints at 2ft! <a href=""></a></p> &mdash; Eric Holthaus (@EricHolthaus) <a href="">September 30, 2015</a></blockquote> <script async src="//" charset="utf-8"></script></body></html> Blue Marble Maps Climate Desk Science Top Stories Wed, 30 Sep 2015 16:40:59 +0000 Tim McDonnell 285671 at One Good Thing to Come Out of California's Drought Is This Luminous Book <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p>What if, contrary to current El Ni&ntilde;o predictions, California never again catches a break from drought? Such is the world imagined by Mojave Desert-bred <a href="" target="_blank">Claire Vaye Watkins</a> in her electrifying debut novel <em>Gold Fame Citrus.&nbsp;</em></p> <p>Watkins was born in Bishop, California, a small city in the Sierra Nevada's eastern foothills, and grew up in parched territory nearby. She first made waves with her&nbsp;short story collection, <a href="" target="_blank"><em>Battleborn</em></a>, which won the Dylan Thomas prize and the New York Library Young Lions Fiction Award. <em>Vogue </em>called Watkins "the most captivating voice to come out of the West since Annie Proulx."</p> <div class="inline inline-right" style="display: table; width: 1%"><img alt="" class="image" src="/files/GoldFameCitrus.jpg"></div> <p><em>Gold Fame Citrus</em> opens with young couple Luz and Ray eking out an existence in a vacant mansion in what was once Los Angeles, during a "drought of droughts," under the "ever-beaming, ever-heating, ever-evaporating sun." Bronzed Luz, wafer-thin and grimy, traipses around the mansion in a starlet's old robes, dodging rats and scorpions and living as "basically another woman's ghost," while Ray, usually shirtless with long, unbound curls, attempts to turn the villa into a survival bunker.&nbsp;</p> <p>In this vision of the not-so-distant future, the West has run dry. Its citizens, who had once crowded California in search of "gold, fame, citrus," are now referred to as Mojavs and are all mostly banned from the more&nbsp;lush&nbsp;parts of the country. Water is rationed in paltry jugs at precise points of the day.</p> <p>While attending a demented raindance festival, Luz and Ray encounter a strange girl they call "Ig," who clings to the couple and soon thrusts herself into their lives. Afraid of the vagabonds who might come looking for Ig, the improvised family flees Southern California in a search for more fertile territory, passing nomads, forest graveyards, and anthropomorphized sand dunes along the way.</p> <p>Watkins' prose sizzles, her pen morphing sentences into glimmering new arrangements. While surrealist fiction is often striking for the fantastical scenery it conjures, <em>Gold Fame Citrus</em> haunted me with its references to&nbsp;objects I now take for granted. In a passage describing the only fruit still available in Luz and Ray's world, Watkins writes:</p> <blockquote> <p>Hard sour strawberries and blackberries filled with dust. Flaccid carrots, ashen spinach, cracked olives, bruised hundred-dollar mangos, all-pith oranges, shriveled lemons, boozy tangerines, raspberries with gassed aphids curled in their hearts, an avocado whose crumbling taupe innards once made you weep.</p> </blockquote> <p>Just as she turns a familiar landscape into a mysterious and foreboding geography, Watkins breathes new life into words we thought we knew well.&nbsp;<em>Gold Fame Citrus</em> will hypnotize you like a dream, and make you want to take a big swig of the water we have left.</p></body></html> Blue Marble Tue, 29 Sep 2015 10:00:22 +0000 Maddie Oatman 285481 at NASA Scientists Just Discovered Liquid Water on Mars <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p>Scientists have known for several years that there is ice on the surface of Mars. But liquid surface water&mdash;which many believe would be a prerequisite for life&mdash;has remained elusive. Until now.</p> <p>This morning, NASA scientists announced that satellite images have revealed traces of liquid water on Mars' surface. The water is salty, which keeps it from quickly freezing or evaporating.</p> <p>From the <em><a href=";version=BreakingNews&amp;region=FixedTop&amp;action=Click&amp;contentCollection=BreakingNews&amp;contentID=51558061&amp;pgtype=article" target="_blank">New York Times</a>:</em></p> <blockquote> <p>The researchers were able to identify the telltale sign of a hydrated salt at four locations. In addition, the signs of the salt disappeared when the streaks faded. "It's very definitive there is some sort of liquid water," [lead scientist&nbsp;Lujendra] Ojha said&hellip;</p> <p>Liquid water is considered one of the essential ingredients for life, and its presence raises the question of whether Mars, which appears so dry and barren, could possess niches of habitability for microbial Martians.</p> </blockquote> <p>Here's a bit more detail from <a href="" target="_blank">the</a><em><a href="" target="_blank"> Guardian</a>:</em></p> <blockquote> <p>Liquid water runs down canyons and crater walls over the summer months&hellip;The trickles leave long, dark stains on the Martian terrain that can reach hundreds of metres downhill in the warmer months, before they dry up in the autumn as surface temperatures drop. Images taken from the Mars orbit show cliffs, and the steep walls of valleys and craters, streaked with summertime flows that in the most active spots combine to form intricate fan-like patterns.</p> <p>Scientists are unsure where the water comes from, but it may rise up from underground ice or salty aquifers, or condense out of the thin Martian atmosphere.</p> </blockquote></body></html> Blue Marble Climate Change Climate Desk Science Top Stories Mon, 28 Sep 2015 15:37:31 +0000 Tim McDonnell 285416 at Look! In The Sky! It's a Bird! It's a Plane! AND THEY'RE ON FIRE! Oh Wait, It's a Blood Moon. <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p><a href="" target="_blank">The Blood Moon starts at 10:11pm ET</a>! You can watch it live <a href="" target="_blank">here</a>. Or you can go outside and look at it IRL. But you won't do that because you're an internet shut-in. No judgment!</p> <object classid="clsid:D27CDB6E-AE6D-11cf-96B8-444553540000" codebase=",0,47,0" height="354" id="flashObj" width="630"><param name="movie" value=";isUI=1"><param name="bgcolor" value="#FFFFFF"><param name="flashVars" value="videoId=4201392482001&amp;;playerID=1917933886001&amp;playerKey=AQ~~,AAAAABGEUMg~,hNlIXLTZFZn-NQOazMchMDWH0SI1hX7f&amp;domain=embed&amp;dynamicStreaming=true"><param name="base" value=""><param name="seamlesstabbing" value="false"><param name="allowFullScreen" value="true"><param name="swLiveConnect" value="true"><param name="allowScriptAccess" value="always"><embed allowfullscreen="true" allowscriptaccess="always" base="" bgcolor="#FFFFFF" flashvars="videoId=4201392482001&amp;;playerID=1917933886001&amp;playerKey=AQ~~,AAAAABGEUMg~,hNlIXLTZFZn-NQOazMchMDWH0SI1hX7f&amp;domain=embed&amp;dynamicStreaming=true" height="354" name="flashObj" pluginspage="" seamlesstabbing="false" src=";isUI=1" swliveconnect="true" type="application/x-shockwave-flash" width="630"></embed></object> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><strong>What is a Blood Moon?</strong></p> <p><a href="" target="_blank">It is not the end of the world.</a></p> <p><strong>It is</strong>, well, let this video explain:</p> <p><iframe allowfullscreen="" frameborder="0" height="354" src="" width="630"></iframe></p></body></html> Blue Marble Sun, 27 Sep 2015 23:45:04 +0000 Ben Dreyfuss 285376 at China's Climate Plan Isn't Crazy and Might Actually Work <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p>Today Chinese President Xi Jinping and US President Barack Obama are planning to jointly <a href="" target="_blank">announce long-awaited details</a> of China's plan to slash its greenhouse gas emissions by putting a price on carbon dioxide pollution. The plan, which will commence in 2017, will make China the world's biggest market for carbon cap-and-trade, a system that sets a cap on the amount of CO2 that major polluters like power plants and factories can emit, then allows those entities to sell off excess credits (if they pollute less than the limit) or buy extra ones (if they pollute more than the limit).</p> <p>The idea of a system like this is that it uses the market&mdash;rather than simply a government mandate&mdash;to force cuts in the emissions that cause climate change. Want to pollute? Fine, but it's going to cost you. If you clean up, you can make cash selling credits to your dirtier neighbors. A similar type of policy, a carbon tax, imposes a different kind of financial incentive in the form of a fee paid to the government for every unit of CO2 emissions. Ultimately, the rationale behind both systems is the same: Because corporate polluters now have to pay a financial price price for their emissions, air pollution and fossil fuel consumption both go down, clean energy goes up, and the climate is saved.</p> <p>Many environmental economists agree that some kind of carbon price&mdash;either cap-and-trade or a tax&mdash;is the most efficient and effective way to quickly curb fossil fuel consumption, and thus give us a chance at staving off global warming. Democrats in Congress attempted to enact a national cap-and-trade program in the US in 2009; it passed the House but was killed by the Senate Republicans. Since then, a national carbon pricing system has been a non-starter in Washington. But there are plenty of <a href="" target="_blank">other examples of successful systems elsewhere</a> that should make us optimistic about China's new plan.</p> <p><strong>The Northeast United States: </strong>The <a href="" target="_blank">Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative</a> (RGGI) is a cap-and-trade market that includes nine states in the Northeast, set up in 2008. The program is widely considered a success and is expected to reduce the region's power-sector emissions by 45 percent compared to 2005 levels by 2020. This year, the price of credits <a href="" target="_blank">has been riding high</a>, a sign that the market is working to create a powerful incentive to reduce emissions. The most recent auction of credits, in September, generated in $152.7 million for the states&mdash;revenue that is re-invested in clean energy programs and electric bill assistance for low-income households.</p> <p><strong>California: </strong>When Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger pushed through legislation in 2006 to set aggressive climate targets for the state, the key mechanism was a cap-and-trade program, <a href="" target="_blank">which finally opened in 2013</a>. So far, <a href="" target="_blank">it seems to be working</a>. <a href="" target="_blank">Emissions are down, while GDP is up</a>. In fact, the California program <a href="" target="_blank">was a primary model</a> for the Chinese system.</p> <p><strong>British Columbia: </strong>This Canadian province's carbon tax, first enacted in 2008, is <a href="" target="_blank">one of the most successful carbon pricing plans anywhere</a>. Gasoline consumption is way down, and the government has raised billions that it has returned to citizens in the form of tax cuts for low-income households and small businesses. The program "made climate action real to people," one Canadian environmentalist <a href="" target="_blank">told</a> my former colleague Chris Mooney.</p> <p><strong>Australia: </strong>For a country that is notoriously reliant on coal, Australia had been on the progressive side of climate politics after it passed a national carbon tax in 2012. The tax was scrapped just two years later, after then-Prime Minister Tony Abbott blamed it for a sluggish economic recovery and high energy prices. But the repeal <a href="" target="_blank">actually yielded an unexpected insight</a> into the success of the program: In the first quarter without the tax, emissions jumped for the first time since prior to the global financial crisis. In other words, the tax had worked effectively to drive down emissions.</p> <p><strong>Europe: </strong>Of course, carbon pricing systems aren't without their flaws, and the European Trading Scheme has provided a good example of the risks. The system has <a href="" target="_blank">often been plagued by a too-high cap</a>, meaning the market becomes flooded with credits, the price drops, and polluters have little incentive to change. This month, regulators <a href="" target="_blank">passed a package</a> of reforms meant to restrict the number of credits and bolster the market. But even with the low price, the ETS has been <a href="" target="_blank">effective enough</a> to keep the EU on track to meet its stated climate goals.&nbsp; &nbsp;</p> <p>Even with these good examples to draw from, there are <a href="" target="_blank">still challenges ahead</a> for China. How will the government allocate credits among different polluters? Will the polluters actually trade with one another? How effectively will the government be able to monitor emissions, to ensure that the credits actually match real pollution?</p> <p>But at the very least, Republicans in the US just lost <a href="" target="_blank">one their favorite excuses</a> for climate inaction: That China, the world's biggest emitter, is doing nothing.</p></body></html> Blue Marble China Climate Change Climate Desk Top Stories Infrastructure Fri, 25 Sep 2015 19:30:25 +0000 Tim McDonnell 285256 at The Feds Have a Secret Plan to Stop the Next Car Pollution Scandal <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p>Days after Volkswagen admitted that half a million cars it sold in the United States contained software enabling them to evade clean air laws, top Environmental Protection Agency officials say they are planning to toughen emissions testing for all automakers. The EPA now plans to examine vehicles for so-called defeat devices.</p> <p>In a <a href="" target="_blank">letter</a> released this morning, the EPA said federal regulations allow the agency to "test or require testing on any vehicle at a designated location, using driving cycles and conditions that may reasonably be expected to be encountered in normal operation and use, for the purposes of investigating a potential defeat device." The EPA said it planned to begin conducting these additional procedures when vehicles undergo emissions and fuel economy testing, and it warned that the new procedures "may add time to the confirmatory test process and&hellip;additional mileage may be accumulated."</p> <p>"We are stepping up our testing," Janet McCabe, the EPA's acting assistant administrator, told reporters. "We take seriously our responsibility to oversee the enforcement of clean air regulations. The VW violations have made it clear that we need to adapt our oversight."</p> <p>Last Friday, the EPA issued a citation to Volkswagen for equipping nearly 500,000 diesel-powered cars sold since 2009 with software that can detect when the car is undergoing federal testing for smog-forming emissions. During the test, the cars meet the standard; under normal driving conditions, emissions are up to 40 times higher. Similar devices were installed on some 11 million VW cars worldwide, producing illegal air pollution that <a href="" target="_blank">may contribute</a> to thousands of deaths. The resulting scandal <a href="" target="_blank">devastated VW's share value</a> and <a href="" target="_blank">forced the ouster of its CEO</a>.</p> <p>The EPA is currently investigating the full extent of the illegal software program and could ultimately deliver up to $18 billion in fines. Today's announcement doesn't affect that investigation. Officials said no recall has been announced and that if one is eventually called for, VW drivers will hear about it directly from the company.</p> <p>EPA chief Gina McCarthy <a href="" target="_blank">said</a> the agency is concerned that other automakers could have similar devices that have gone undetected. Even if they don't, VW is responsible for a new raft of regulatory headaches for all companies that want to sell cars in the United States.</p> <p>Chris Grundler, director of the EPA's Office of Transportation, wouldn't say exactly how his agency would sniff out defeat devices. But it would add additional time and rigor to the testing process, he said.</p> <p>"We're not going to tell them what the test is," he said. "They don't need to know."</p></body></html> Blue Marble Climate Change Climate Desk Tech Fri, 25 Sep 2015 15:46:25 +0000 Tim McDonnell 285231 at Did Pope Francis Soften His Climate Message for Congress? <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p>In the run-up to Pope Francis' address to Congress today, there was a lot of speculation about how his climate change message would play in a chamber where action on climate often goes to die. Most of the pontiff's positions on global warming <a href="" target="_blank">are not popular with Republican</a> members of Congress&mdash;especially the fact that it exists, and that humans are causing it.</p> <p>We got a bit of a preview during the pope's <a href="" target="_blank">speech yesterday at the White House</a>, where he laid out his typically forceful message on the need to fight global warming. He even favorably mentioned President Barack Obama's new restrictions on power plant emissions:</p> <blockquote> <p>Mr. President, I find it encouraging that you are proposing an initiative for reducing air pollution. (Applause.) Accepting the urgency, it seems clear to me also that climate change is a problem which can no longer be left to our future generation. (Applause.) When it comes to the care of our common home, we are living at a critical moment of history. We still have time to make the change needed to bring about a sustainable and integral development, for we know that things can change. (Applause.)</p> </blockquote> <p>But a <a href="" target="_blank">draft of the pope's speech to Congress</a> this morning lays out a considerably softer message on climate. He cites his landmark encyclical on climate, <em>Laudato Si</em>, but he doesn't use the phrase "climate change" at all:</p> <blockquote> <p>It goes without saying that part of this great effort is the creation and distribution of wealth. The right use of natural resources, the proper application of technology and the harnessing of the spirit of enterprise are essential elements of an economy which seeks to be modern, inclusive and sustainable. "Business is a noble vocation, directed to producing wealth and improving the world. It can be a fruitful source of prosperity for the area in which it operates, especially if it sees the creation of jobs as an essential part of its service to the common good" (Laudato Si&rsquo;, 129). This common good also includes the earth, a central theme of the encyclical which I recently wrote in order to "enter into dialogue with all people about our common home" (ibid., 3). "We need a conversation which includes everyone, since the environmental challenge we are undergoing, and its human roots, concern and affect us all" (ibid., 14).</p> <p>In Laudato Si&rsquo;, I call for a courageous and responsible effort to "redirect our steps" (ibid., 61), and to avert the most serious effects of the environmental deterioration caused by human activity. I am convinced that we can make a difference and I have no doubt that the United States &ndash; and this Congress &ndash; have an important role to play. Now is the time for courageous actions and strategies, aimed at implementing a "culture of care" (ibid., 231) and "an integrated approach to combating poverty, restoring dignity to the excluded, and at the same time protecting nature" (ibid., 139). "We have the freedom needed to limit and direct technology" (ibid., 112); "to devise intelligent ways of... developing and limiting our power" (ibid., 78); and to put technology "at the service of another type of progress, one which is healthier, more human, more social, more integral" (ibid., 112). In this regard, I am confident that America's outstanding academic and research institutions can make a vital contribution in the years ahead.</p> </blockquote> <p>The message today is much softer, much less direct. Perhaps Pope Francis didn't want to tread too heavily on the message in a room that wouldn't be receptive to it.</p></body></html> Blue Marble Climate Change Climate Desk Thu, 24 Sep 2015 14:42:14 +0000 Tim McDonnell 285131 at How Scientific Are the US Dietary Guidelines? <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p>Later this year, the US government is set to unveil its new dietary guidelines&mdash;advice on what Americans should eat to stay healthy. The guidelines, once known as the Food Pyramid, are updated every five years and are hugely influential: They affect everything from food labeling and doctors' advice to school lunch menus, aid programs for low-income families, and research priorities at the National Institutes of Health. They also have some clout globally, with governments in other Western countries often adopting similar nutrition policies.</p> <p>So how exactly does the US government come up with these guidelines? The process might be less scientific than you'd expect, according to a <a href="" target="_blank">new investigation</a> in a major British medical journal that suggests Big Food is playing too big of a role in the government's dietary recommendations.</p> <p>The guidelines, writes journalist Nina Teicholz in the <em>BMJ</em> journal, are based on <a href="" target="_blank">a report by the Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee</a>, a panel of experts tasked with reviewing scientific studies on nutrition. For years, the advisory committee faced criticism about its review process, so in 2010 the US Department of Agriculture created the <a href="" target="_blank">Nutrition Evidence Library</a>, which set up a system to methodically evaluate scientific research based on a hierarchy of evidence and a transparent grading process.</p> <p>But in the 2015 report for the new guidelines, the advisory committee said it did not use NEL reviews for more than 70 percent of topics it covered; instead, Teicholz found, the committee used studies by outside professional organizations, including some with backing from Big Food, like the American Heart Association (which she says received 20 percent of its revenue from industry in 2014) and the American College of Cardiology (which she says received 38 percent of its revenue from industry in 2012).</p> <p>In her investigation, Teicholz also examined the industry ties of specific members of the advisory committee, finding that they received support from groups like the California Walnut Commission, the International Tree Nut Council, Unilever, and Lluminari, a health media company that works with General Mills, PepsiCo, and Stonyfield Farm. "While there is no evidence that these potential conflicts of interest influenced the committee members, the [2015 dietary guidelines] report recommends a high consumption of vegetable oils and nuts," Teicholz writes, while noting that most scientists in the field of nutrition receive some support from industry due to a shortage of public research funding.</p> <p>Teicholz, author of <em>The Big Fat Surprise</em>, a book about the politics behind dietary fat recommendations, takes particular issue with the advisory committee's push to restrict saturated fats, which it describes as a form of "empty calories." She writes, "Unlike sugar, saturated fats are mostly consumed as an inherent part of foods such as eggs, meat, and dairy, which together contain nearly all the vitamins and minerals needed for good health." She says the committee also did not sufficiently consider studies showing that low-carbohydrate diets are effective for promoting weight loss and improving heart disease risk factors.</p> <p>Barbara Millen, the chair of the advisory committee, rejects allegations that the committee's dietary recommendations are not supported by science. "The evidence base has never been stronger to guide solutions," she was quoted as saying in the <em>BMJ</em>. "You don't simply answer these questions on the basis of the NEL [Nutrition Evidence Library]. Where we didn't feel we needed to, we didn't do them. On topics where there were existing comprehensive guidelines, we didn't do them."</p> <p>Millen defended the recommendations on saturated fat and said there had been insufficient evidence to consider low-carbohydrate diets, while adding that committee members were vetted by counsel to the federal government. But Teicholz isn't convinced: "It may be time to ask our authorities to convene an unbiased and balanced panel of scientists to undertake a comprehensive review, in order to ensure that selection of the dietary guidelines committee becomes more transparent, with better disclosure of the conflicts of interest, and that the most rigorous scientific evidence is reliably used to produce the best possible nutrition policy," she writes.</p> <p id="correction"><em>Update: The US Department of Health and Human Services has issued a statement about the BMJ article: "The British Medical Journal&rsquo;s decision to publish this article is unfortunate given the prevalence of factual errors.</em> <em>HHS and USDA required the 2015 Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee to conduct a rigorous, systematic and transparent review of the current body of nutrition science. Following an 19-month open process, documented for the public on, the external expert committee submitted its report to the Secretaries of HHS and USDA. HHS and USDA are considering the Scientific Report of the 2015 Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee, along with comments from the public and input from federal agencies, as we develop the 2015 Dietary Guidelines for Americans to be released later this year."</em></p></body></html> Blue Marble Food and Ag Top Stories Thu, 24 Sep 2015 10:00:40 +0000 Samantha Michaels 284981 at Hillary Clinton Opposes the Keystone Pipeline <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p>Hillary Clinton has long declined to take a position on whether or not the Obama administration should approve the Keystone XL oil pipeline. That just changed. At a <a href="" target="_blank">campaign event Tuesday in Des Moines, Iowa</a>, Clinton came out against the controversial project.</p> <p>Here's her statement, via <a href=";hootPostID=9df6177c6acd01ff3f726acce35be2ff" target="_blank">NBC</a>:</p> <blockquote> <p>"I think it is imperative that we look at the Keystone XL pipeline as what I believe it is: A distraction from the important work we have to do to combat climate change, and, unfortunately from my perspective, one that interferes with our ability to move forward and deal with other issues," she said during a campaign event in Iowa Tuesday.</p> <p>"Therefore, I oppose it. I oppose it because I don't think it's in the best interest of what we need to do to combat climate change."</p> </blockquote> <p>Clinton now joins the ranks of two of her opponents in the Democratic presidential primary, Bernie Sanders and Martin O'Malley, who have both opposed the pipeline. Democrat <a href="" target="_blank">Jim Webb</a>, however, supports the project, <a href="" target="_blank">along with all of the Republican candidates</a>. A final decision, which has been years in the making, is expected from the Obama administration by the end of this year.</p></body></html> Blue Marble 2016 Elections Climate Change Climate Desk Hillary Clinton Top Stories Infrastructure Tue, 22 Sep 2015 20:41:57 +0000 Tim McDonnell 284846 at Which States Are the Most Obese? <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p>Bulging waistlines have become the new normal in the United States, according to Monday's <a href="" target="_blank">"State of Obesity" report</a>. Though only five states saw increases in adult obesity last year, researchers noted little improvement to the nation's weight crisis overall: The average American adult is 24 pounds heavier than in 1980, when obesity rates were less than half of their present levels. The report is published annually by Trust for America's Health and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.</p> <div class="inline inline-left" style="display: table; width: 1%"><img alt="" class="image" src="/files/obesity.png"></div> <p>With <a href="" target="_blank">more than one-third</a> of Americans considered obese and nearly 70 percent of them overweight, rates of obesity-linked diseases have also risen steadily. Across the South and the Midwest, where the obesity crisis is most severe (<a href="" target="_blank">Arkansas</a>, West Virginia, and Mississippi topped the scales in this year's report), rates of hypertension and diabetes climbed past record highs. Racial and economic disparities are also acute: Nearly half of black adults are now obese, compared with just under one-third of white adults. The researchers said higher rates of food insecurity, targeted marketing of unhealthy foods, and unequal health care access were all factors contributing to the disparity.</p> <div class="inline inline-left" style="display: table; width: 1%"><img alt="" class="image" src="/files/diabetes.png"></div> <div class="inline inline-left" style="display: table; width: 1%"><img alt="" class="image" src="/files/hypertension_0.png"></div> <p>But the researchers also note a few areas where policy and lifestyle have curbed crisis-level rates. Obesity was less of an issue in states out West and in the Northeast, where sedentary lifestyles are less common. (The nation's slimmest state, Colorado, also had the lowest rate of physical inactivity). And while the child obesity rate remains three times its level from 1980, the researchers add that outreach to parents, programs offering nutrition assistance, and healthy-eating campaigns in schools seem to be making a difference: Obesity among children has <a href="" target="_blank">declined since 2004</a>.</p> <div class="inline inline-left" style="display: table; width: 1%"><img alt="" class="image" src="/files/inactive_0.png"><div class="caption">Trust for America's Health and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation</div> </div></body></html> Blue Marble Health Top Stories Mon, 21 Sep 2015 22:24:13 +0000 Gregory Barber 284701 at Volkswagen's Shares Veer off Cliff After Automaker Admits It Cheated Pollution Tests <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><div class="inline inline-center" style="display: table; width: 1%"><img alt="" class="image" src="/files/Screen-Shot-2015-09-21-at-10.50.35-AM.jpg"><div class="caption"><a href="" target="_blank">Bloomberg</a></div> </div> <p>Investors severely punished Volkswagen when trading opened on Monday morning in Europe, driving the German automaker's stock price off a cliff. The steep decline comes after the US Environmental Protection Agency accused the company of evading federal clean air laws, and its CEO was forced to apologize. The rout wiped away nearly a quarter of the company's share value virtually overnight&mdash;about 15.4 billion euros ($17.4 billion), <a href="" target="_blank">according to Bloomberg.</a> As of Monday morning US time, the price had rebounded a bit.</p> <p>On Friday, the EPA <a href="" target="_blank">handed down a damning citation</a> to VW outlining a plot that, <a href="" target="_blank">while highly nefarious</a>, is pretty impressive in its scope: According to the EPA, the company outfitted half a million diesel-powered cars sold in the United States with software called a "defeat device" that could detect when the car was being officially tested for toxic emissions. During the test, the cars' computers would apply extra pollution controls; for the rest of the time, when the cars were being driven on the road, smog-forming emissions were up to 40 times higher than the legal limit.</p> <p>It's unclear how far up the chain of command the deception reached. On Sunday, VW CEO Martin Winterkorn said he was <a href="" target="_blank">"deeply sorry"</a> for breaking the public trust and ordered an internal investigation. That won't stop the ongoing US investigation, which could ultimately result in up to $18 <em>billion</em> in fines. Monday's stock plunge wiped out nearly that same amount.</p></body></html> Blue Marble Charts Climate Change Climate Desk Energy Tech Mon, 21 Sep 2015 16:12:36 +0000 Tim McDonnell 284636 at Antibiotics Are Spreading Like Crazy—and a Lot of Them Are About to Stop Working <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p>In 1945, Sir Alexander Fleming won a Nobel Prize for his discovery of penicillin, which transformed modern medicine. Later that year, the bacteriologist issued a prescient warning: The miracle medicine could one day come with dangerous side effects. If antibiotics were overused, he told the <a href=";src=pm" target="_blank"><em>New York Times</em></a>, bacteria would develop resistance and spur a new generation of bugs impervious to the drugs' power.</p> <p>In the last 60 years, Fleming's advice has gone largely unheeded. Antibiotic consumption continues to grow even as health officials around the world sound the alarm over <a href="" target="_blank">rising numbers</a> of resistant bacteria. Now, a new <a href="" target="_blank">report</a> from the Center for Disease Dynamics, Economics and Policy (CDDEP), a multidisciplinary research organization, paints a harrowing picture of where we stand in the arms race against antibiotic resistance. The main finding is grim: Antibiotic consumption rose by 30 percent between 2000 and 2010 and is expected to swell further as demand for drugs and mass-produced meat products grow around the world.</p> <p>"Antibiotic resistance is now clearly a problem in both the developed world and developing countries," coauthor Ramanan Laxminarayan told <em><a href="" target="_blank">National Geographic</a>.</em> "Things are about to get a lot worse before they get better."</p> <p>With the report, CDDEP also launched an <a href="" target="_blank">interactive data visualization</a> that shows antibiotic use from 69 countries. Additional charts also show antibiotic resistance rates of 12 different types of bacteria. For example:</p> <div class="inline inline-left" style="display: table; width: 1%"><img alt="" class="image" src="/files/Screen%20Shot%202015-09-18%20at%202.43.24%20PM.png" style="height: 160px; width: 630px;"></div> <p>One reason for the rising rates of resistance: Many developing countries that now have access to affordable antibiotics do not yet have the infrastructure to regulate them. The report highlights that 80 percent of antibiotics are consumed in communities and not in hospitals, and are often not prescribed by doctors. Many of the drugs being used are intended only for emergency cases. As Maryn McKenna <a href="" target="_blank">reported</a> in <em>National Geographic</em>:</p> <blockquote> <p>Troublingly, that rising consumption worldwide takes in the most precious last-ditch drugs. Carbapenem use rose by 40 percent between 2000 and 2010, and the use of the very last-resort drug class polymixins rose by 13 percent. Sales of those drugs are rising fastest in India, Pakistan and Egypt, and many of those sales are retail, outside countries&rsquo; healthcare systems.</p> </blockquote> <p>According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, of the roughly 2 million people in the United States afflicted every year with illnesses caused by antibiotic-resistant bacteria, 23,000 of them will die. These illnesses cost around $20 billion each year, and lead to an additional $35 billion in productivity losses.</p> <p>In response to the imminent and growing threat of antibiotic resistance, this year, the White House launched <a href="" target="_blank">the National Action Plan for Combating Antibiotic-Resistant Bacteria</a>, which aims to cut down on overuse in the next five years. While it does offer a promising framework for better practices in health care, as my colleague Tom Phillpot <a href="" target="_blank">reports</a>, regulations fall short in one of the key areas of antibiotic overuse: agriculture. The meat industry consumes an unbelievable <a href="" target="_blank">80 percent</a> of all antibiotics sold in the United States.</p> <p>The Food and Drug Administration's voluntary guidelines advise against the use of antibiotics for animal growth&mdash;but the industry continues to exploit regulatory loopholes and administer growing amounts of antibiotics to the animals we eat.</p> <p>Worldwide, according to the report, more than 63,000 tons of antibiotics were given to livestock in 2010, and this number is only expected to grow. Over the next 15 years, as <a href="" target="_blank">demand for meat grows around the world</a> and small scale farms switch to mass production to keep up, animal consumption of antibiotics is projected to increase by 67 percent.</p> <p>While the outlook on growing antibiotic use and the likelihood of increased resistance seems grim, the authors of the report offer six strategies that could help curb the issues before they get worse:</p> <ul><li>Reduce the need for antibiotics through improved water, sanitation, and immunization</li> <li>Improve hospital infection control and antibiotic stewardship</li> <li>Change incentives that encourage antibiotic overuse and misuse to incentives that encourage antibiotic stewardship</li> <li>Reduce and eventually phase out subtherapuetic antibiotic use in agriculture</li> <li>Educate and inform health professionals, policymakers, and the public on sustainable antibiotic use</li> <li>Ensure political commitment to meet the threat of antibiotic resistance</li> </ul><p>Earlier this year, the World Health Organizations' governing body, <a href="" target="_blank">the World Health Assembly, </a>called for its member countries to adopt policies that will curb antibiotic use by 2017. The report's authors hope their findings will lead to stronger stewardship around the world.</p> <p>"With support from WHO and the international community, this resolution could catalyze change&mdash;or, like similar resolutions over the past decade, it may be ignored," they write. "The evidence in this report, documenting the seriousness of the problem and offering a successful approach to country level action, supports both the urgency and the feasibility of making progress in conserving antibiotic effectiveness."</p> <footer class="clearfix" style="display: block; border-top-width: 0px; min-height: 27px; padding-top: 12px; text-align: left; margin-top: 14px; color: rgb(0, 0, 0); font-family: minion-pro, Georgia, serif; font-size: 16px; font-style: normal; font-variant: normal; font-weight: normal; letter-spacing: normal; line-height: 22.4px; orphans: auto; text-indent: 0px; text-transform: none; white-space: normal; widows: 1; word-spacing: 0px; -webkit-text-stroke-width: 0px;"><div class="fb-like fb_iframe_widget" data-action="like" data-font="arial" data-href="" data-layout="button_count" data-ref="" data-send="false" data-share="false" data-show_faces="false" data-width="90" style="float: left;display: inline-block; position: relative; line-height: 16px;">&nbsp;</div> </footer></body></html> Blue Marble Health Top Stories Sat, 19 Sep 2015 10:00:06 +0000 Gabrielle Canon 284541 at The Feds Just Accused Volkswagen of an Unbelievable Scheme to Evade Pollution Laws <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p>Volkswagen produced hundreds of thousands of cars with a device made to intentionally evade air pollution standards, according to a <a href="" target="_blank">citation</a> issued today by the Environmental Protection Agency.</p> <p>The EPA alleges that nearly 500,000 VW cars sold in the United States over the last several years were equipped with the device, which the EPA says enabled the onboard computer to detect when the car was undergoing an emissions test. At that time, the engine would operate in a way that complied with emissions standards; at all other times, the car would produce emissions of harmful gases up to 40 times greater than allowed by federal law. The primary gas in question is nitrogen oxide, which causes smog, which is a leading cause of respiratory ailments.</p> <p>This table from the citation lists the models that were allegedly outfitted with the illegal device. All of the cars in question had diesel engines:</p> <div class="inline inline-center" style="display: table; width: 1%"><img alt="" class="image" src="/files/Screen%20Shot%202015-09-18%20at%203.23.10%20PM.png"><div class="caption">EPA</div> </div> <p>The EPA cites a 2014 <a href="" target="_blank">study</a> by the International Council on Clean Transportation that found a troubling gap between real-world and laboratory emissions in some diesel cars, without naming specific manufacturers.</p> <p>"When you test it in the lab, they looked great," said Anup Bandivadekar, one of the study's authors. "But when you actually drive them around, emissions were much higher."</p> <p>The citation issued today lifted the curtain on the specific cars in question and delineates the federal laws VW is accused of violating. The EPA is continuing to investigate the charges and has passed the citation to the Justice Department, where it will be up to federal prosecutors to prove the charges. Volkswagen could be compelled to fix all the cars and pay up to $3,750 per car (roughly $18 billion altogether) in fines.</p> <p>In a statement, a Volkswagen spokesperson said the company was cooperating with the investigation but declined to comment further.</p></body></html> Blue Marble Climate Change Climate Desk Energy Obama Top Stories Fri, 18 Sep 2015 20:17:20 +0000 Tim McDonnell 284601 at This Catholic Congressman Is Boycotting Pope Francis’ Speech to Congress <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p>When Pope Francis addresses a joint session of Congress next Thursday, there's a pretty good chance he'll talk about climate change, one of his <a href="" target="_blank">favorite subjects</a> of late. Paul Gosar, a Republican Congressman from Arizona, is not happy about that.&nbsp;</p> <p>Plenty of <a href="" target="_blank">climate change deniers</a>, Catholic and not, have <a href="" target="_blank">expressed their displeasure</a> with the Holy Father over his stance on climate. But Gosar, himself a Catholic, just became the first member of Congress to announce he will boycott the speech because of it.</p> <p>In a column published in <em>Town Hall</em> yesterday, <a href="" target="_blank">Gosar wrote</a>:</p> <blockquote> <p>The earth's climate has been changing since God created it, with or without man. On that, we should all agree&hellip;If the Pope wants to devote his life to fighting climate change then he can do so in his personal time. But to promote questionable science as Catholic dogma is ridiculous&hellip;</p> <p>When the Pope chooses to act and talk like a leftist politician, then he can expect to be treated like one.</p> </blockquote> <p>Obviously, Gosar, a dentist by trade, does not think man-made climate change is a real thing. He also isn't a fan of clean energy: Earlier this year, <a href="" target="_blank">he sent a letter</a> to the Federal Trade Commission calling for an inquiry into allegedly deceptive trade practices by the solar industry. (It was later revealed that the letter was originally drafted by Arizona's biggest power company and slipped to Gosar's office.) He also <a href="" target="_blank">wants to impeach</a> the chief of the Environmental Protection Agency and has accused her of perjury.</p> <div class="inline inline-left" style="display: table; width: 1%"><img alt="" class="image" src="/files/Paul_Gosar_Official_Portrait_c._2012.jpg"><div class="caption"><strong>Gosar </strong><a href="" target="_blank">Wikimedia Commons</a></div> </div> <p>Apparently, Gosar didn't get the memo that Congress, which is usually where hope for climate action goes to die, is supposed to be on its <a href="" target="_blank">"best behavior"</a> for the pope's visit.</p> <p>So far, at least one faith group has called foul on Gosar. John Gehring, the Catholic program director at Faith for Public Life, said in a statement, "This stunning display of disrespect toward Pope Francis from a Catholic elected official shows a profound ignorance about the church's teachings when it comes to stewardship of creation."</p></body></html> Blue Marble Climate Change Climate Desk Congress Science Top Stories Fri, 18 Sep 2015 16:55:39 +0000 Tim McDonnell 284536 at David Letterman's New Job: Fight Back Against Global-Warming Deniers <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p><a href="" target="_blank">Stephen Colbert is great</a>, sure, but we were all sad to see David Letterman leave late-night TV this spring. Fortunately, he's not gone forever: The National Geographic Channel announced yesterday that Letterman will appear as a special correspondent on the second season of <a href="" target="_blank"><em>Years of Living Dangerously</em></a>, the <a href="" target="_blank">Emmy-winning</a> documentary series about climate change.&nbsp;</p> <p>From the <a href="" target="_blank"><em>Los Angeles Times</em></a>:</p> <blockquote> <p>The&nbsp;upcoming season of the series will focus on "solutions that individuals, communities, companies and even governments can use to address worldwide climate change," said [National Geographic Channels CEO Courtney] Bach in a statement...</p> <p>Other Hollywood names attached to Season 2 include Joshua Jackson ("The Affair"), Jack Black ("The Brink"), Ty Burrell ("Modern Family") and Cecily Strong ("Saturday Night Live").</p> </blockquote> <p>The season will air next October, just before the presidential election.</p></body></html> Blue Marble Climate Change Climate Desk Media Top Stories Fri, 18 Sep 2015 15:11:30 +0000 Tim McDonnell 284506 at A Third of American Kids Will Eat Fast Food Today <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p>Every day, more than a third of children in the United States eat fast food. A new <a href=";utm_medium=Physician%27s%20First%20Watch+PFW%20with%20VALID%20Emails+PFW%20with%20VALID%20Emails&amp;utm_campaign=PFW%20150917%20LIVE" target="_blank">report</a> from the Centers of Disease Control and Prevention also showed that teens eat twice as much fast food as younger children; on average, 17 percent of teens' daily calories come from fast food.</p> <p>Fast food consumption among children grew between 1994 and 2006, rising from 10 percent to 13 percent. The new report, which used data from the CDC's 2011-2012 <a href="" target="_blank">National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey</a>, shows only a slight decrease&mdash;overall, kids ages 2 to 19 consume 12 percent of their calories from fast food. Surprisingly, these numbers weren't different across socioeconomic status, gender, or weight.</p> <div class="inline inline-center" style="display: table; width: 1%"><img alt="" class="image" src="/files/fast%20food%20pie%20chart.gif"><div class="caption"><strong>Percentage of children and adolescents aged 2&ndash;19 years who consumed fast food on a given day, by calories consumed: United States, 2011&ndash;2012 </strong>Centers for Disease Control and Prevention</div> </div> <p>Over the last 30 years, childhood obesity in the United States has <a href="" target="_blank">more than doubled</a>. Between 1980 and 2012 the number of kids considered obese increased from 7 percent to 18 percent and the number of teens during that same period quadrupled.</p> <p>In an interview with&nbsp;<a href="" target="_blank"><em>USA Today</em></a>, Sandra Hassink, president of the American Academy of Pediatrics, pointed to fast food ads geared toward kids as a main factor in the soaring obesity rates. Indeed, as my colleague Kiera Butler <a href="" target="_blank">wrote earlier this year</a>, McDonald's, in an effort to revive its flagging sales, is marketing inside schools:</p> <blockquote> <p>Over at Civil Eats, school food blogger Bettina Elias Siegel <a href="" target="_blank">explained</a> in December that McDonald's targeting of kids is no accident. Rather, it's part of the company's strategy to revive its <a href=";_ylt=AwrT6VqIQgtVgzwAmaEnnIlQ?s=MCD" target="_blank">flagging sales.</a> In a December conference call, Siegel reported, McDonald's then-CEO Don Thompson and the company's US President Mike Andres told investors that the company has "got to be in the schools. When you look at the performance relative to peers of the operators [whose] restaurants are part of the community&ndash;it's significant."</p> </blockquote> <p>Hassink also noted that diet-related diseases, like type-2 diabetes, are affecting Americans at much younger ages than they used to. (In fact, the youngest type-2 diabetes patient on record, a three-year-old girl, was <a href=";feedName=healthNews" target="_blank">recently diagnosed</a>.)&nbsp; This, said Hassink, should be cause for concern:</p> <blockquote> <p>"Childhood is not a place where you can say, 'Let everyone eat what they want and we can fix it later.' "Hassink said parents should remember that daily choices about food can contribute to long-term chronic disease. "Health doesn't happen by accident," she said.</p> </blockquote></body></html> Blue Marble Health Top Stories Thu, 17 Sep 2015 21:24:34 +0000 Gabrielle Canon 284451 at 2015 Will Probably Be the Hottest Year on Record <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p>Another day, another smashed temperature record.</p> <p>Earlier this week, <a href="" target="_blank">a trio</a> of independent analyses by scientists in the UK, Japan, and the US found that global temperatures over the summer were among the highest on record. Wednesday, US scientists announced that sea ice extent in the Arctic shrunk to its <a href="" target="_blank">fourth-lowest minimum</a> ever this summer. And Thursday, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration joined the chorus with a <a href="" target="_blank">report</a> that found that last month was the hottest August ever recorded, and that 2015 is on pace to be the hottest year on record.</p> <p>If this sounds familiar, that's because 2014 was very likely the <a href="" target="_blank">hottest year on record</a> until now. As my colleague Jeremy Schulman <a href="" target="_blank">pointed out at the time</a>, the specific ranking is way less important than the overall trend, which is that we're experiencing more record-breaking hot temperatures than ever before. Today's news is just more proof of that.</p> <p>Here's the data for August. There is a lot of dark red (meaning the hottest on record) on this map:</p> <div class="inline inline-center" style="display: table; width: 1%"><img alt="" class="image" src="/files/NOAA-1.jpg"><div class="caption">NOAA</div> </div> <p>The picture looks equally extreme for the year-to-date:</p> <div class="inline inline-center" style="display: table; width: 1%"><img alt="" class="image" src="/files/NOAA-3.jpg"><div class="caption">NOAA</div> </div> <p>Here's how those year-to-date temperatures stack up against some other extremely hot years. You can see that 2015 is on pace to blow past 2014:</p> <div class="inline inline-center" style="display: table; width: 1%"><img alt="" class="image" src="/files/NOAA-2.jpg"></div> <p>NOAA also reported that the insane drought in California and the Northwest won't be lifting anytime soon:</p> <div class="inline inline-center" style="display: table; width: 1%"><img alt="" class="image" src="/files/NOAA-4.jpg"><div class="caption">NOAA</div> </div></body></html> Blue Marble Charts Climate Change Climate Desk Science Thu, 17 Sep 2015 17:46:30 +0000 Tim McDonnell 284416 at Here's What the Drivers of the GOP Clown Car Are Saying About Climate Change <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p>The second <a href="" target="_blank">Republican primary debate is tonight</a>. It should be fun. It's supposed to focus on foreign policy, so it could be an excellent opportunity to examine the <a href="" target="_blank">global implications of climate change</a>. What's more, three of the show's biggest stars have been running their mouths about global warming over the last few days.</p> <p>Guess what? The things they said were dumb and wrong.</p> <p>First up: The Donald. During a speech in Texas on Monday, <a href="" target="_blank">Trump took aim</a> at President Barack Obama's oft-repeated (and true) claim that <a href="" target="_blank">climate change is a major threat to America's national security</a>.</p> <p>"They changed it to climate change because the word 'global warming' wasn't working," Trump said. "Then they changed it to extreme weather&mdash;you can't get hurt with extreme weather."</p> <p><iframe allowfullscreen="" frameborder="0" height="315" src="" width="560"></iframe></p> <p>Next up, rising star Ben Carson, who has gained more in the polls over the last month than any other candidate and poses the biggest challenge to Trump tonight. Last week, he <a href="" target="_blank">told the <em>San Francisco Chronicle </em>that</a> "there is no overwhelming science that the things that are going on are man-caused and not naturally caused. Gimme a break."</p> <p>Actually, there is a ridiculously overwhelming amount of science that shows just that. And fortunately, California Gov. Jerry Brown (D) was happy to share all that information with Carson:</p> <blockquote class="twitter-tweet" lang="en"> <p dir="ltr" lang="en">.<a href="">@JerryBrownGov</a> to climate science denier <a href="">@RealBenCarson</a>: "Climate change is much bigger than partisan politics." <a href=""></a></p> &mdash; Gov. Brown Press Ofc (@GovPressOffice) <a href="">September 10, 2015</a></blockquote> <script async src="//" charset="utf-8"></script><p>Finally, there's Carly Fiorina, the only candidate to be promoted from the "kid's table" debate in August, to the grown-up table tonight, thanks to some good polling early in the month. In an <a href="" target="_blank">interview with CNBC's John Harwood</a> published today, she trotted out the good old standby line that "a single nation acting alone can make no difference at all," and that therefore the United States needs to stop "destroying peoples' livelihoods on the alter of ideology."</p> <p><iframe allowfullscreen="true" bgcolor="#131313" height="298" src=";byGuid=3000421185&amp;size=530_298" type="application/x-shockwave-flash" width="530"></iframe></p> <p>I guess she missed the news that the United States, rather than acting alone, has actually <a href="" target="_blank">been really successful in convincing China</a> and other major polluters to take action.</p></body></html> Blue Marble 2016 Elections Climate Change Climate Desk Top Stories Wed, 16 Sep 2015 21:06:24 +0000 Tim McDonnell 284306 at For the First Time, the United States Will Actually Try to Waste Less Food <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p>Each year, Americans throw away about a third of the country's food supply. But today, the US Department of Agriculture and the Environmental Protection Agency <a href="" target="_blank">announced</a> the country's first-ever food waste reduction goal, calling for a fifty percent reduction by 2030.</p> <p>Frankly, this is huge news. Food is the single biggest contributor to landfills today: 133 billion pounds of it end up in dumpsters each year in America&mdash;enough to<a href="" target="_blank"> fill the Sears Tower 44 times</a>. According to the <a href="" target="_blank">Natural Resource Defense Council</a>, the average family tosses out $1,500 of food each year, adding up to the equivalent of $162 billion worth of food across the nation. And the impact goes beyond the financial: Wasted food uses up about 25 percent of the US water supply and produces 33 million cars' worth of greenhouse gases each year (in landfills, food waste releases methane, a greenhouse gas much more potent than carbon dioxide). In the meantime, one in six Americans doesn't have a steady supply of food.</p> <div class="inline inline-center" style="display: table; width: 1%"><img alt="" class="image" src="/files/Screen%20Shot%202015-09-16%20at%201.17.34%20PM.png"><div class="caption">"Wasted," Natural Resources Defense Council</div> </div> <p>Most of the waste happens at a consumer level. We let food go bad in the fridge, or consumers <a href="" target="_blank">misunderstand the meaning of expiration dates</a> and throw away food before it's actually expired. But some waste happens at the production and retail levels&mdash;produce that doesn't look nice on the outside isn't picked on the farm, and restaurants and grocery stores toss food before it's spoiled to make room for new shipments.</p> <p>"The United States enjoys the most productive and abundant food supply on earth, but too much of this food goes to waste," said Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack. "Our new reduction goal demonstrates America's leadership on a global level in in getting wholesome food to people who need it, protecting our natural resources, cutting environmental pollution and promoting innovative approaches for reducing food loss and waste."</p></body></html> Blue Marble Climate Change Econundrums Food and Ag Wed, 16 Sep 2015 20:56:38 +0000 Julia Lurie 284301 at The Last Time California Was This Dry, People Thought the Sun Revolved Around the Earth <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p>California's historic drought may be even more exceptional than we thought.</p> <p>In a study <a href="" target="_blank">published yesterday</a>, scientists made a startling discovery about the severity of California's dry spell: They estimated that the Sierra Nevada mountain range's snowpack levels this year are the lowest they've been for 500 years. That's right, since roughly the year 1500.</p> <p>This is bad news for Californians: Snowfall in the mountains <a href="" target="_blank">can account for</a> as much as one-third of the state's water supply during a normal year.</p> <p>Last spring, measurements <a href="" target="_blank">showed</a> that levels were at their lowest point in the 75 years they've been recorded. (That period is shown in red on the graph below.) But scientists had to get creative in order to determine how much snow had fallen over the centuries before snowpack measurements were taken. Paleoclimatologists from the University of Arizona's Laboratory of Tree-Ring Research analyzed studies that used tree rings to reconstruct historical rainfall and temperatures in California's mountains. By combining this data, they were able to estimate spring snowpack levels going back half a millennium, as represented in the graphic below. (SWE stands for "snow water equivalent," which means snowpack).</p> <div class="inline inline-left" style="display: table; width: 1%"> <div class="inline inline-left" style="display: table; width: 1%"><img alt="" class="image" src="/files/Screen%20Shot%202015-09-15%20at%2012.25.54%20PM_0.png" style="height: 327px; width: 630px;"><p class="inline-credit">University of Arizona's Laboratory of Tree-Ring Research and Nature Climate Change</p> </div> </div> <p>They found that while there have been many bad years for snow in the mountains, the last time the snowpack sank to this year's levels was around the year 1500.</p> <p>This spring, the snowpack reached just 5 percent of average yearly levels.</p> <p>According to Greg Corbin, a meteorologist at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, the state's water system can only store a limited amount of rain runoff, so it relies on snowpack to replenish water reserves. Until it starts snowing again, California has "a long, long way to go," to restore its water, he says.</p></body></html> Blue Marble Food and Ag Top Stories california drought drought Wed, 16 Sep 2015 10:00:09 +0000 Luke Whelan 284211 at We're Obliterating Global Temperature Records, and There's No End in Sight <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p>One after another, each of 2015's summer months have been among the hottest ever recorded on Earth. And a trio of new studies out this week, from three different countries, confirms that temperature records just keep tumbling&mdash;falling victim to an <a href="" target="_blank">unusually massive El Ni&ntilde;o</a> climate event gathering strength in the Pacific, as well as unrelenting man-made climate change, which is cooking the entire system.</p> <p>On Monday, Japan's Meteorological Agency <a href="">said</a> that this August was the hottest August worldwide since 1891, when its records begin. August was 0.81 degrees above the 1981-2010 average, smashing 2014's record.</p> <div class="inline inline-left" style="display: table; width: 1%"><img alt="" class="image" src="/files/aug_wld.png" style="height: 591px; width: 630px;"><div class="caption"><strong>Data from Japan's Meteorological Agency shows 2015's August was the hottest August in more than 120 years. </strong>JMA</div> </div> <p><a href="" target="_blank">Also on Monday</a>, NASA <a href="">confirmed</a> that scientists have never recorded a <a href="">hotter summer</a> than this year's. When taken together, temperatures for June, July, and August were 1.4 degrees hotter than the long-term average, passing the previous hottest summer, 1998. Unlike Japan's study, NASA says this August was <a href="">very narrowly</a> the second hottest August on record (behind 2014).</p> <p>And finally, <a href="">major research</a> <a href="">from the United Kingdom's Met Office</a> released this week concluded that 2015's overall temperatures are running at or near record levels (at about 0.684 degrees above the 1981-2010 average)&mdash;which suggests the next two years could be the hottest on record around the world.</p> <p>"We know natural patterns contribute to global temperatures in any given year, but the very warm temperatures so far this year indicate the continued impact of (manmade) greenhouse gases," said Stephen Belcher from the Met Office, in a news release. "With the potential that next year could be similarly warm, it's clear that our climate continues to change."</p> <p>The Met Office says this year's El Ni&ntilde;o&mdash; the global climate event that occurs every five to seven years, bringing drought to places like Australia while heaping rain on the western United States&mdash;is likely contributing to record temperatures. (Sadly, <a href="" target="_blank">it's unlikely to help quench California enough to break the drought.</a>)</p> <p>The El Ni&ntilde;o itself could break records. "Recent oceanic and atmospheric indicators are at levels not seen since the 1997&ndash;98 El Ni&ntilde;o," Australia's Bureau of Meteorology <a href="">said on Tuesday</a>, adding that the big climate event is unlikely to subside before early 2016.</p> <p>El Ni&ntilde;o is also probably contributing to the unusually active hurricane season in the Pacific. The Met Office says tropical cyclone activity across the northern hemisphere this year is about 200 percent above normal. Six hurricanes have crossed the central Pacific, more than in any other year on record.</p></body></html> Blue Marble Charts Climate Change Climate Desk Top Stories Tue, 15 Sep 2015 22:16:26 +0000 James West 284206 at America's 25 Top Restaurant Chains, Ranked by Antibiotic Use <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p>Heads up, meat eaters: A new report has rated the antibiotic use in the meat of 25 top fast-food or "fast casual" restaurants, and the results are, well, concerning. The <a href="" target="_blank">report</a> by Friends of the Earth, the Natural Resources Defense Council, and four other consumer health organizations, examined antibiotic use as well as the restaurants' transparency about their meat and poultry supply chains. Chipotle and Panera were the only chains to publicly report serving a majority of meat from animals raised without routine antibiotics.</p> <p><img alt="" class="image" src="/files/FOE_AntibioticsMedia_4.png"></p> <div class="caption">"Chain Reaction," by Friends of the Earth, Natural Resources Defense Council, et al</div> <p>The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention calls antibiotic resistance one of the top five health threats facing the nation, killing an estimated<a href="" target="_blank"> 23,000 Americans</a> each year. "When livestock producers administer antibiotics routinely to their flocks and herds, bacteria can develop resistance, thrive, and even spread to our communities, contributing to the larger problem of antibiotic resistance," the report explains. "The worsening epidemic of resistance means that antibiotics may not work when we need them most: when our kids contract a staph infection (MRSA) or our parents get a life-threatening pneumonia."</p> <p>In addition to sending each company a survey, the report authors examined company websites and other publicly available information. They intend for the report to be updated annually as companies change their practices.</p> <p>Here's a rundown of what researchers had to say about each restaurant (emphasis added):</p> <ul><li><strong>Panera </strong>and<strong> Chipotle</strong> are the only chains that publicly affirm that the majority of their meat and poultry offered is produced without routine use of antibiotics.</li> <li><strong>Chick-fil-A </strong>and<strong> McDonald's</strong> have established policies limiting antibiotic use in their chicken with implementation timelines.</li> <li><strong>Dunkin' Donuts</strong> has a policy covering all meats but has no reported timeline for implementation.</li> <li>While<strong> Starbucks </strong>has made positive statements supporting what it terms as 'responsible use of antibiotics to support animal health,' to our knowledge the company has failed to adopt a clear policy prohibiting routine use of antibiotics in its meat and poultry supply chains or to provide detailed public information on their purchasing practices.</li> <li>While <strong>Subway</strong> did not respond to our survey, recent news outlets report that the company's goal is to 'eliminate the use of antibiotics in products across the menu' and that Subway is 'targeting to transition to chicken raise without antibiotics important to human medicine in 2016.'...It is unclear whether this would entail the end of all routine antibiotic use in its supply chains.</li> <li><strong>Burger King, Wendy's, Olive Garden, KFC, Chili's, Sonic, Denny's, Domino's, Starbucks, Papa John's Pizza, Taco Bell, Pizza Hut, Applebee's, Jack in the Box, Arby's, Dairy Queen, IHOP, Outback Steakhouse, and Little Ceasars</strong> either have no disclosed policy on antibiotics use in their meat and poultry, or have policies that in our estimation allow for the continued, routine use of antibiotics in the production of all meats they serve.</li> </ul></body></html> Blue Marble Food and Ag Health Pharma Tue, 15 Sep 2015 19:33:02 +0000 Julia Lurie 284186 at This Video Shows What It's Like to Drive Through California's Raging Valley Fire <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p>Hellish new video has emerged from the heart of California's Valley Fire, which turned vicious over the weekend, destroying an <a href="" target="_blank">estimated 400 homes and 20 businesses</a> in Lake County, northeast of wine country and Santa Rosa.</p> <p>While not the biggest in size, the Valley Fire has become one of the most destructive in a fire season exacerbated by <a href="" target="_blank">California's prolonged drought</a>. According to the <a href="" target="_blank"><em>LA Times</em></a>, four firefighters were injured and one civilian may have been killed. As of Monday morning, the fire, currently burning <a href="" target="_blank">50,000 acres</a>, is only 5 percent contained, and more than 1,400 firefighters are on the ground.</p> <p>Yesterday, Gov. Jerry Brown declared a state of emergency in Lake and Napa counties, allowing the California National Guard and other state resources to mobilize against the fire.</p> <p>Walls of flames crept up on one resident of the Anderson Springs community, who fled along a road swept by fire and posted a harrowing video of his escape. In a comment on the <a href="" target="_blank">video</a>, YouTube user mulletFive wrote, "We got no phone call, there were no sirens, no ash falling, no smoke, no air support. As far as we knew the fire was still far away. But it turns out it was very close to our home, there was simply not enough firefighters to tend to our area." He made it safely south to the Bay Area, according to comments on the video.</p> <p><iframe allowfullscreen="" frameborder="0" height="354" src="" width="630"></iframe></p></body></html> Blue Marble Video Climate Change Climate Desk Mon, 14 Sep 2015 15:21:14 +0000 Tim McDonnell 284006 at California Democrats Wanted to Save the World. They Just Caved to Big Oil. <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p><strong>Update, Monday Sept. 14, 12:00pm ET: </strong><em>During the closing minutes of their session Friday afternoon, California legislators <a href="" target="_blank">passed SB 350</a>. Although stripped of the provision to reduce the state's gasoline consumption, the bill still includes new standards for renewable energy and energy efficiency. It now heads to Gov. Brown's desk; he is expected to sign it this month.</em></p> <p>It appears I was a bit too bullish on the prospects for <a href="" target="_blank">historic new climate legislation</a> in California. Yesterday, Democrats in the state legislature <a href="" target="_blank">caved to pressure</a> from the powerful oil industry and dropped a critical piece of the bill.</p> <p>SB 350, which had passed the state Senate but faced an uphill climb through the Assembly, was intended to enshrine in law a series of ambitious climate targets unveiled earlier this year by Gov. Jerry Brown (D). One of the most important was a proposal to slash the state's gasoline consumption in half by 2030. Here's a bit of background from <a href="" target="_blank">my story</a> last week:</p> <blockquote> <p>SB 350 would bring the state's gasoline consumption down to about where Florida's is now, while setting new targets for clean energy and energy efficiency projects&hellip;The gas consumption target would likely require some combination of new fuel efficiency standards for cars, incentives for alternative fuels and biofuels, cooperation with local planning agencies to improve public transit and make communities less car-reliant, and a push to get people to buy more electric vehicles. (California is already <a href="" target="_blank">home to half</a> of the roughly 174,000 electric vehicles on the road in the United States.)</p> <p>"If California can do this, it could really be the beginning of the snowball," said Tim O'Connor, director of California policy for the Environmental Defense Fund. "This is how California can really shake up the national conversation on climate."</p> </blockquote> <p>Other parts of the bill are intact, including the goal to get half the state's power from renewable energy sources and double the efficiency of state buildings by 2030. But the gas reduction proposal faced intense opposition from the oil industry, the most powerful special interest in Sacramento. Now, that provision is up in smoke, apparently as a compromise measure to ensure passage of the other provisions, <a href="" target="_blank">according to the <em>New York Times</em></a>:</p> <blockquote> <p>Henry T. Perea, a moderate Democrat who was a leader of the opposition to the petroleum measure, said he would support the measure&mdash;Senate Bill 350&mdash;in this form, which he called a compromise&hellip;</p> <p>The measure was the subject of an intense campaign directed by the Western States Petroleum Association, which labeled the bill "the California Gas Restriction Act of 2015" in television advertisements and mailings. The president of the organization, Catherine Reheis-Boyd, applauded the decision to drop this proposal and said that oil companies "remain committed to working with Gov. Jerry Brown and legislators on climate change and energy policy."</p> <p>Mr. Brown told reporters in Sacramento that he would use his executive powers to continue to force the kinds of reductions in global emissions that have been a central goal of his governorship. "Oil has won the skirmish, but they've lost the bigger battle," he said.</p> </blockquote> <p>Bummer!</p></body></html> Blue Marble Climate Change Climate Desk Energy Thu, 10 Sep 2015 14:58:58 +0000 Tim McDonnell 283836 at