Blue Marble Feed | Mother Jones Mother Jones logo en World Leaders Have Failed to Seriously Confront Climate Change. Could That Change Next Week? <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p>Break out your protest sign materials and take your <a href="" target="_blank">polar bear costume</a> to the dry cleaner, boys and girls: This coming weekend marks the kickoff of <a href="" target="_blank">Climate Week NYC 2014</a>, a flurry of meetings and protests about climate action. It all starts with the <a href="" target="_blank">People's Climate March</a> in Columbus Circle on Sunday. Organizers are already calling it the <a href="" target="_blank">biggest climate march in history</a>, with over 100,000 folks expected to turn up.</p> <p>But the week's main event is on Tuesday at the United Nations, where Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon will preside over a confab of heads of state (including President Obama), diplomats, CEOs, and policy wonks who will all be talking about how to prevent global warming from reaching catastrophic levels.&nbsp;</p> <p>The UN conference is meant as a preparation for the major international climate negotiations scheduled for next winter in Paris, a summit that is <a href="" target="_blank">theoretically</a> intended to produce an aggressive carbon-cutting treaty to replace the Kyoto Protocol. In other words, in classic UN fashion, it's a meeting about a meeting, or as Mashable's Andrew Freedman <a href="" target="_blank">more eloquently put it</a>, "the cocktail party ahead of a formal dinner." So it's probably safe to assume that next week we'll be served appetizers and <em>amuse-bouches</em> rather than a substantive meal, climate action-wise.</p> <p>Still, New York is a city on the front lines of climate change: Just yesterday the last subway line damaged two years ago by Hurricane Sandy <a href="" target="_blank">finally came back online</a>. So the excitement is building. Here are a few things to look for:</p></body></html> <p style="font-size: 1.083em;"><a href="/blue-marble/2014/09/heres-deal-big-un-climate-summit-next-week"><strong><em>Continue Reading &raquo;</em></strong></a></p> Blue Marble Climate Change Climate Desk Corporations Energy Science Top Stories Tue, 16 Sep 2014 18:14:23 +0000 Tim McDonnell 260236 at BP Lashes Out at Journalists and "Opportunistic" Environmentalists <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p>News of this morning's <a href="" target="_blank">federal court decision</a> against BP broke as I was aboard a 40-foot oyster boat in the Louisiana delta, just off the coast of Empire, a suburb of New Orleans.</p> <p>The reaction: stunned silence. Then a bit of optimism.</p> <p>"This is huge," said John Tesvich, chair of the Louisiana Oyster Task Force, his industry's main lobby group in the state. "They are going to have to pay a lot more." Standing on his boat, the "Croatian Pride," en route to survey oyster farms, he added: "We want to see justice. We hope that this money goes to helping cure some of the environmental issues in this state."</p> <p>On Thursday, <a href="" target="_blank">a federal judge in New Orleans found</a> that the&nbsp;2010 Gulf of Mexico disaster&mdash;in which the Deepwater Horizon oil rig exploded, killing 11 people and spilling millions of barrels of oil into the Gulf&mdash;was caused by BP's "willful misconduct" and "gross negligence."</p> <p>Tesvich says he's seen a drastic decline in his company's oyster production since then&mdash;company profits down 15 to 20 percent and&nbsp;oyster yields slashed by 30 percent. He says he's suspicious that this new decision will force the kind of action from local politicians needed to clean up the Gulf once-and-for-all. The politicians in Louisiana, he says, "haven't been the best environmental stewards."</p> <p>BP's own reaction to the news has been fast and pointed.&nbsp;"BP strongly disagrees with the decision&acirc;&#128;&#139;," the company said in a statement on Thursday, <a href="" target="_blank">published to its website</a>.&nbsp;"BP believes that an impartial view of the record does not support the erroneous conclusion reached by the District Court."</p> <p>The company said it would immediately appeal the decision.</p> <p>With the fourth anniversary of the busted well's final sealing coming up in a couple weeks,&nbsp;BP has been pushing back aggressively against the company's critics. On Wednesday night&mdash;just hours before the court's ruling&mdash;Geoff Morrell, the company's vice president of US communications, spoke in New Orleans at the Society of Environmental Journalists conference, and blamed the media and activists for BP's rough ride.</p> <p>The company's efforts to clean up the spill have been obscured, he said, by the ill-intentioned efforts of "opportunistic" environmentalists, shoddy science, and the sloppy work of environmental journalists (much to the chagrin of his audience, hundreds of environmental journalists).</p> <p>"It's clear that the apocalypse forecast did not come to pass," he said. "The environmental impacts of the spill were not as far-reaching or long-lasting as many predicted."</p> <p>Back in 2010, BP's then-CEO Tony Hayward&nbsp;<a href="" target="_blank">lamented</a>&mdash;a month after the explosion&mdash;that he wanted his "life back." He didn't find much sympathy at the time. Within a couple months, he resigned out of the spotlight (with a $930,000 petroleum parachute). But his flub didn't retire so easily, and it became emblematic of BP's astonishing capacity for tone-deafness, something Morrell seemed intent on continuing Wednesday.</p> <p>Morrell&nbsp;said that while "impolitic" remarks had been made by BP officials in the past, the spill's aftermath has been "tough on all of us."</p> <p>I can only imagine.</p> <p>I can faithfully report that no rotten tomatoes were hurled during Morrell's talk, and grumbles and cynical chuckles were kept to a polite murmur. But the response on Twitter was more&nbsp;free-flowing:</p> <blockquote class="twitter-tweet" lang="en"> <p><a href="">@BP_plc</a> spox Geoff Morrell not trying to win any friends here at <a href="">#SEJ2014</a> Very combattive</p> &mdash; Suzanne Goldenberg (@suzyji) <a href="">September 4, 2014</a></blockquote> <script async src="//" charset="utf-8"></script><blockquote class="twitter-tweet" lang="en"> <p>Now BP spox is arguing that <a href="">@NOAA</a> tuna study published in PNAS was not applicable because it was done in a lab. <a href="">#SEJ2014</a></p> &mdash; Kate Sheppard (@kate_sheppard) <a href="">September 4, 2014</a></blockquote> <script async src="//" charset="utf-8"></script><blockquote class="twitter-tweet" lang="en"> <p>BP guy: "We should not be accountable for damaged caused by others or conjured by advocacy groups" <a href="">#SEJ2014</a></p> &mdash; Zo&euml; Schlanger (@zoeschlanger) <a href="">September 4, 2014</a></blockquote> <script async src="//" charset="utf-8"></script><blockquote class="twitter-tweet" lang="en"> <p>BP spox <a href="">@morrellgeoff</a> defends BP's track record at <a href="">#SEJ2014</a>. Previous gig was defending US track record in Iraq.</p> &mdash; Peter Dykstra (@pdykstra) <a href="">September 4, 2014</a></blockquote> <p><script async src="//" charset="utf-8"></script>Yup, that last one <a href="" target="_blank">is true.</a>&nbsp;</p></body></html> Blue Marble Climate Change Climate Desk Corporations Energy Top Stories Infrastructure Thu, 04 Sep 2014 17:36:51 +0000 Tim McDonnell 259621 at BP Was Just Found Grossly Negligent in the Gulf Oil Spill Disaster. Read the Full Ruling. <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p>In a blunt ruling handed down on&nbsp;Thursday, a federal judge in New Orleans found that the biggest oil spill in US history, the 2010 Gulf of Mexico disaster, was caused by&nbsp;BP's "willful misconduct" and "gross negligence."</p> <p>On April 20, 2010, the Deepwater Horizon oil rig exploded, killing 11 people and spilling millions of barrels of oil into the Gulf over the next several months. <a href="" target="_blank">According to Bloomberg</a>, the plaintiffs in the lawsuit include "the federal government, five Gulf of Mexico states, banks, restaurants, fishermen and a host of others."</p> <p>The case also includes two other companies that were involved in&nbsp;aspects of the design and function of the Deepwater Horizon&mdash;Transocean and Halliburton&mdash;though the bulk of the blame was reserved for BP.</p> <p>"BP's&nbsp;conduct&nbsp;was reckless," wrote District Judge Carl&nbsp;Barbier, in a 153-page ruling. "Transocean's conduct was negligent. Halliburton's conduct was negligent."</p> <p>The judge ruled that BP was responsible for 67 percent of the blowout, explosion and subsequent oil spill, while Transocean was at fault for 30 percent, and Halliburton for the remaining 3 percent.</p> <p><a href="" target="_blank">According to Bloomberg</a>, BP could face fines of as much as $18 billion.</p> <p><span style="line-height: 2em;">Here's the full ruling.</span></p> <div class="DV-container" id="DV-viewer-1283664-9042014findingsoffactandconclusionsoflaw">&nbsp;</div> <script src="//"></script><script> DV.load("//", { width: 630, height: 420, sidebar: false, container: "#DV-viewer-1283664-9042014findingsoffactandconclusionsoflaw" }); </script><noscript> <a href="">BP Was Just Found "Grossly Negligent" in the Gulf Oil Spill Disaster. Read the Full Ruling. (PDF)</a> <br><a href="">BP Was Just Found "Grossly Negligent" in the Gulf Oil Spill Disaster. Read the Full Ruling. (Text)</a> </noscript></body></html> Blue Marble Climate Desk Top Stories Infrastructure Thu, 04 Sep 2014 15:49:20 +0000 James West 259641 at 5 Terrifying Facts From the Leaked UN Climate Report <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p>How many synonyms for "grim" can I pack into one article? I had to consult the thesaurus:&nbsp;ghastly, horrid, awful, shocking, grisly, gruesome.</p> <p>This week,&nbsp;a big report from the UN's Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change was leaked before publication, and it confirmed, yet again, the grim&mdash;dire, frightful&mdash;reality the we face if we don't slash our global greenhouse gas emissions, and slash them&nbsp;fast.</p> <p>This "Synthesis Report," to be released in November following a&nbsp;UN conference in Copenhagen, is still subject to revision. It is intended to summarize three previous UN climate publications and to "provide an integrated view" to the world's governments of the risks they face from runaway carbon pollution, along with&nbsp;possible policy&nbsp;solutions.</p> <p>As expected, the document contains <a href="" target="_blank">a lot of what had already been reported</a> after the three underpinning reports were released <a href="" target="_blank">at global summits</a> over the past year. It's a long list of problems: sea level rise resulting in coastal flooding, crippling heat waves and multidecade droughts, torrential downpours, widespread food shortages, species extinction, pest outbreaks, economic damage, and exacerbated civil conflicts and poverty.</p> <p>But in general, the 127-page leaked report provides starker language than the previous three, framing the crisis as a series of "irreversible" ecological and economic catastrophes that will occur if swift action is not taken.</p> <p>Here are five particularly grim&mdash;depressing, distressing, upsetting, worrying, unpleasant&mdash;takeaways from the report.</p> <p><strong>1. Our efforts to combat climate change have been grossly inadequate.</strong><br> The report says that anthropogenic (man-made)&nbsp;greenhouse gas emissions continued to increase from 1970 to 2010, at a pace that ramped up especially quickly between&nbsp;2000 and 2010. That's despite some regional action that has sought to limit emissions, including carbon-pricing&nbsp;schemes in Europe. We haven't done enough, the United Nations says, and we're already seeing the effects of inaction.&nbsp;"Human influence on the climate system is clear, and recent anthropogenic emissions of greenhouse gases are the highest in history," the report says. "The climate changes that have already occurred have had widespread and consequential impacts on human and natural systems."</p> <p><strong>2. Keeping global warming below the <a href="" target="_blank">internationally agreed upon</a> 3.6 degrees Fahrenheit (above preindustrial levels) is going to be <em>very</em> hard.</strong><br> To keep warming below this limit, our emissions need to be slashed dramatically. But at current rates, we'll pump enough greenhouse gas into the atmosphere to sail past that critical level within the next 20 to 30 years, according to the report. We need to emit&nbsp;<i>half</i>&nbsp;as much greenhouse gas for the remainder of this century as we've already emitted over the past 250 years. Put simply, that's going to be difficult&mdash;especially when you consider the fact that global emissions are growing, not declining,&nbsp;every year. The report says that to keep temperature increases to 3.6 degrees Fahrenheit, deep emissions cuts of between 40 and 70 percent are needed between 2010 and 2050, with emissions "falling towards zero or below" by 2100.</p> <p><strong>3. We'll probably see nearly ice-free summers&nbsp;in the Arctic Ocean before mid-century.</strong><br> The report says that in every warming scenario it the scientists considered, we should expect to see year-round reductions in Arctic sea ice. By 2050, that will likely result in strings of years in which there is the near absence of sea ice in the summer, <a href="" target="_blank">following a well-established trend</a>. And then there's Greenland, where glaciers have been retreating since the 1960s&mdash;increasingly so after 1993&mdash;<a href="" target="_blank">because of man-made global warming</a>. The report says we may already be facing a situation in which Greenland's ice sheet will vanish over the next millennium, contributing up to 23 feet of sea level rise.</p> <p><strong>4. Dangerous sea level rise will very likely impact 70 percent of the world's coastlines by the end of the century.</strong><br> The report finds that by 2100, the devastating effects of&nbsp;sea level rise&mdash;including flooding, infrastructure damage, and coastal erosion&mdash;will impact the vast majority of the world's coastlines. That's not good:&nbsp;Half the world's population lives within 37 miles&nbsp;of the sea, and three-quarters of all large cities are located on the coast, <a href="" target="_blank">according to the United Nations</a>. The sea has already risen significantly:&nbsp;From 1901 to 2010, global mean sea level rose by 0.62 feet.</p> <p><strong>5. Even if we act now, there's a real&nbsp;risk of "abrupt and irreversible" changes. </strong><br> The carbon released by burning fossil fuels will stay in the atmosphere and the seas for centuries to come, the report says, even if we completely stop emitting CO<sub>2</sub> as soon as possible. That means it's virtually certain that global mean sea level rise will continue for many centuries beyond 2100. Without strategies to reduce emissions, the world will see&nbsp;7.2 degrees Fahrenheit of warming above preindustrial temperatures by the end of the century, condemning us to "substantial species extinction, global and regional food insecurity, [and]&nbsp;consequential constraints on common human activities."</p> <p>What's more, the report indicates that without action, the effects of climate change could be irreversible: "Continued emission of greenhouse gases will cause further warming and long-lasting changes in all components of the climate system, increasing the likelihood of severe, pervasive and irreversible impacts for people and ecosystems."</p> <p>Grim, indeed.</p></body></html> Blue Marble Climate Change Climate Desk Science Top Stories Infrastructure Thu, 28 Aug 2014 18:08:21 +0000 James West 259321 at Earthquake Warning Systems Exist. But California Won't Pay for One. <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p>As Bay Area residents clean their streets and homes after the biggest earthquake to hit California in 25 years rocked Napa Valley this weekend, scientists are pushing lawmakers to fund a statewide system that could warn citizens about earthquakes seconds before they hit.</p> <p>California already has a system, called ShakeAlert, that uses a network of sensors around the state to detect earthquakes just before they happen. The system&mdash;a collaboration between the University of California-Berkeley, Caltech, the US Geological Survey (USGS), and various state offices&mdash;detects a nondestructive current called a P-wave that emanates from a quake's epicenter just before the destructive S-wave shakes the earth. ShakeAlert has successfully predicted several earthquakes, including this weekend's Napa quake. It could be turned into a statewide warning system. But so far, the money's not there.</p> <p>"For years, seismic monitoring has been funded, essentially, on a shoestring," says Peggy Hellweg, operations manager at UC-Berkeley's seismological lab.</p> <p>Maintaining ShakeAlert in its current state <a href="" target="_blank">costs $15 million a year</a>&mdash;a tiny fraction of the estimated $1 billion in damage caused by the Napa quake. Turning it into a statewide early-warning system would require installing new earthquake sensors throughout the state, building faster connections between sensors and data centers, and upgrading the data centers themselves. Since many of California's population centers, including the Bay Area, sit on fault lines, a warning system would likely give residents little time to prepare, ranging "from a few seconds to a few tens of seconds," depending on a person's proximity to the earthquake's epicenter, according to ShakeAlert's website&mdash;not enough time to leave a large building, but perhaps enough to take cover under a desk or table. Warnings could be deployed via text messages, push notifications, or publicly funded alert systems. Setting the whole thing up could cost as much as $80 million over five years&mdash;and keeping it running would cost more than $16 million annually, according to a <a href="" target="_blank">USGS implementation plan</a> published earlier this year.</p> <p>In September 2013, the California legislature passed a <a href="" target="_blank">bill</a> requiring the state's emergency management office to work with private companies to develop an early warning system, but forbade it from pulling money from the state's general fund. The effort got a boost last month when the House appropriations committee <a href="" target="_blank">approved</a> $5 million for the system, the first time Congress has allocated money for a statewide system. But the project is still short on funding.&nbsp;</p> <p>An earthquake early-warning system would not be a unprecedented: Similar systems <a href="" target="_blank">already exist</a> in China, India, Italy, <a href="" target="_blank">Romania</a>, Taiwan, and Turkey. In Mexico City, a warning system connected to sensors 200 miles to the south <a href="" target="_blank">gave residents</a> two minutes' warning before a magnitude 7.2 earthquake struck earlier this year&mdash;enough time for many to leave buildings and congregate in open areas.&nbsp;</p> <p><iframe allowfullscreen="" frameborder="0" height="473" src="//" width="630"></iframe></p> <p>More than <a href="" target="_blank">200 people were injured</a> following last weekend's Napa earthquake, 17 of them seriously,&nbsp;according to the <em>San Francisco Chronicle</em>. Among those hit was a boy who was hit by <a href="" target="_blank">debris</a> from a falling chimney.&nbsp;</p> <p>On Monday, the USGS said the <a href="" target="_blank">likelihood</a> of a "strong and possibly damaging" aftershock (magnitude 5.0 or higher) occurring within the next week was around 29 percent.</p></body></html> Blue Marble Science Top Stories Tue, 26 Aug 2014 10:00:08 +0000 Alex Park 259061 at 5 Ways Climate Change Is Ruining Your Breakfast <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p>Welcome to the worst breakfast-related crisis since <a href="" target="_blank"><em>Lord of the Rings</em></a>: There might be an impending Nutella shortage. And there's a good chance the culprit is climate change.</p> <p>The price of hazelnuts, a main ingredient in the delicious chocolate spread, <a href="" target="_blank">is up 60 percent</a> after unseasonable ice storms devastated hazel tree farms in Turkey's Black Sea coastal region this year. And colder winters and heavier precipitation are exactly what the <a href="" target="_blank">EU's Centre for Climate Adaptation says</a> the Black Sea coast should expect as climate change advances. Though Nutella's manufacturer hasn't raised its prices yet, it's facing increasing strain as <a href="" target="_blank">palm oil and cocoa get more expensive, too</a>.</p> <p>It would be bad enough if Nutella were the only food that melting ice caps and changing weather patterns are threatening to rob from the breakfast table. But no&mdash;the list of climate change's culinary casualties goes on. Here are some other ways it's making the most important meal of the day a little less satisfying:</p> <ol><li><strong>Rising cereal prices.</strong> Kix might be <a href="" target="_blank">kid-tested and mother-approved</a>, but have fun buying them in 2030, when their cost could be as much as 24 percent higher due to drought-stricken grain crops, according to an <a href="" target="_blank">Oxfam International report</a>. (And that doesn't even account for inflation.) Lovers of Frosted Flakes and Kellogg's Corn Flakes should also start stockpiling now&mdash;Oxfam predicts their respective prices will rise by 20 and 30 percent by 2030.</li> <li><strong>A global bacon shortage.</strong> The aporkalypse is nigh. Even if you're on a no-carb diet, shrinking grain supplies are bad news. Pricier corn and soybeans equals pricier pig feed, and pricier pig feed equals smaller pig herds. In 2012, Britain's National Pig Association announced that a pork and bacon shortage "<a href="" target="_blank">is now unavoidable</a>."</li> <li><strong>Bland-but-costly coffee. </strong>There's an epic drought in Brazil, the world's largest coffee exporter. As a result, one <a href="" target="_blank">commodities trading firm says</a> caffeine addicts will consume 5 million more bags of beans than coffee growers can produce in the 2014-2015 season, and the price of coffee futures has already doubled to $2 a pound. To make matters worse, beans grown at higher temperatures <a href="" target="_blank">don't develop the blend of aromatic compounds</a> that give coffee its distinctive flavor.</li> <li><strong>Waffle woes. </strong>The nation had to collectively leggo its Eggos in November 2009, when record flooding in Atlanta <a href="" target="_blank">stopped waffle production</a> at the local Kellogg plant. Sure, this has happened once so far, but according to the <a href="" target="_blank">Environmental Protection Agency</a>, "projected sea level rise, increased hurricane intensity, and associated storm surge may lead to further erosion, flooding, and property damage in the Southeast."</li> </ol></body></html> Blue Marble Climate Change Food and Ag Top Stories Sun, 24 Aug 2014 10:00:06 +0000 Rebecca Cohen 258776 at Drought Weighing You Down? Nope, It's Lifting You Up <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p>Here's a odd piece of news: According to a <a href="" target="_blank">study</a> published Thursday in <em>Science</em>, the water loss due to this year's drought has caused the entire western side of the United States to literally rise. After examining data from nearly 800 GPS stations across the country, researchers from Scripps Institution of Oceanography found that the area west of New Mexico has risen by an average of four millimeters this year. In the Sierra Nevadas and along California's coast&mdash;two areas that have received far less precipitation this year than normal&mdash;the land rose 15 millimeters.</p> <p>Adrian Borsa, a coauthor of the study, explained what's happening: "The earth is an elastic material just like a block of rubber. If you put a water load on it, the earth deforms, if you take the water away, the earth will come back." Using the GPS data, the researchers estimated that the Western United States has lost 62 trillion gallons of water to the atmosphere this year because of the drought. That's enough water to cover the entire Western US in six inches of water.</p> <p>The earth rising seems not only vaguely biblical, but also counterintuitive; one might expect the earth's surface to fall if water is being taken from it. In fact, the ground is falling in some places: Some GPS stations in California had to be left out of the study because farmers are extracting so much groundwater that the ground is literally caving in. But this study didn't examine the ground at a surface-level&mdash;it showed that the earth's crust and mantle are responding elastically to the drought. So while some areas may be falling because of man-made changes at a local level, the West as a whole is rising.</p> <p>As it turns out, the rise and fall of the earth due to water loss actually happens a little each year with the change of the seasons: Land is heavier in the winter and spring, and when water evaporates in the summer and fall, land is a little lighter. But the annual variation in California's mountains is about 5 millimeters&mdash;not this year's 15. The difference "sounds tiny," said Borsa, but from a geological standpoint, "it's a whopping signal" of the amount of water lost to the drought.</p> <p>Contrary to most drought news these days, this rise of the West doesn't have looming disastrous effects in and of itself: The researchers, for example, don't think that this change will cause more extreme earthquakes.</p> <p>But Borsa says that using GPS data on the rise of the earth could help regulators to understand how much water is being used in the West&mdash;particularly in California. California is the only Western state that doesn't measure or regulate major groundwater use; if you can drill down to it, it's all yours. A report produced for the state's Department of Food and Agriculture estimated that California's farmers will pump about 13 million acre-feet of groundwater this year&mdash;<a href="" target="_blank">enough water</a> to put a piece of land the size of Rhode Island 17 feet underwater.</p> <p>With no regulatory system in place, though, it's challenging for officials to know if these estimates are lining up with reality. "The extractions aren't monitored, so no one really knows how to monitor the water supply," says Borsa. Using GPS data "could be a great tool for water managers."</p></body></html> Blue Marble Climate Change Econundrums Food and Ag Top Stories Fri, 22 Aug 2014 10:00:16 +0000 Julia Lurie 258881 at Should Pregnant Women Eat Zero Tuna? <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p>Food-safety experts at <a href="" target="_blank"><em>Consumer Reports</em></a> crunched the numbers on mercury levels in seafood&mdash;and they have a new <a href="" target="_blank">recommendation</a> for pregnant women: Don't eat tuna at all.</p> <p>The FDA recommends that pregnant and nursing women consume between 8 and 12 ounces of fish per week to provide proper nutrition for a baby's brain development and overall health. But some fish are very high in mercury, a neurotoxin that <a href="" target="_blank">can lead</a> to serious cognitive problems and birth defects in children and babies. And the mercury levels in oceans <a href="" target="_blank">are rising</a>&mdash;humans have tripled the mercury content in oceans since the Industrial Revolution&mdash;leading to further mercury absorption by predators like tuna.</p> <div class="inline inline-left" style="display: table; width: 1%"><img alt="" class="image" src="/files/MercuryChart.jpg"><div class="caption"><strong>Consumer Reports provides charts to help curb mercury levels during fish consumption. </strong>Courtesy of Consumer Reports</div> </div> <p>A team at the Consumer Reports National Research Center analyzed data from the Food and Drug Administration's <a href="" target="_blank">chart</a>&nbsp;on mercury levels in seafood&nbsp;and determined that consuming 6 ounces of albacore tuna in a week&mdash;the level&nbsp;recommended as safe by the FDA for pregnant women&mdash;would put a 125-pound woman over the Environmental Protection Agency's "safe" mercury threshold by more than two&nbsp;ounces.</p> <p>Canned light tuna is thought&nbsp;to offer a lower mercury tuna option, but 20 percent of the FDA's samples of it&nbsp;contained almost double the average level of mercury that it's supposed to. Some samples had more mercury than the king mackerel&mdash;one of the FDA's top four high-in-mercury fish&mdash;which the agency advises pregnant women and children to avoid. Canned tuna constitutes the second most frequently consumed seafood product in the United States.</p> <p>Some experts like Deborah Rice, a former senior risk assessor for the EPA, think that research since 2001 suggests that there is "no question" that the FDA and EPA's current limit for mercury consumption is "too high," she told <em>Consumer Reports</em>. The magazine is urging&nbsp;the FDA and EPA to recommend that&nbsp;pregnant women avoid eating any tuna&mdash;and to provide more safety information concerning tuna for pregnant women, children and people who eat a lot of fish (24 ounces of fish, around <a href="" target="_blank">seven servings</a>,&nbsp;or more per week).</p></body></html> Blue Marble Health Thu, 21 Aug 2014 10:00:07 +0000 Jenna McLaughlin 258691 at How Much It Costs to Raise a Kid, in 4 Charts <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p>A middle-income family with a child born in 2013 can expect to spend about a quarter of a million dollars in child-rearing expenses over the next 18 years, according to a <a href="" target="_blank">new report from the USDA</a>.</p> <p>Costs such as housing, food, transportation, clothing, health care, child care, and education will amount to an expected $304,340 ($245,340 in 2013 dollars) for middle-income families, a 1.8 percent increase from last year's report. For each income bracket, costs will increase as the child ages:</p> <p><iframe allowfullscreen="allowfullscreen" allowtransparency="true" frameborder="0" height="400" mozallowfullscreen="mozallowfullscreen" msallowfullscreen="msallowfullscreen" oallowfullscreen="oallowfullscreen" src="//" webkitallowfullscreen="webkitallowfullscreen" width="100%"></iframe></p> <p>Although households with incomes in the lowest third will spend less than half as much on child-related costs as higher income families, their spending will amount to a far greater percent of total income.</p> <p><iframe allowfullscreen="allowfullscreen" allowtransparency="true" frameborder="0" height="314" mozallowfullscreen="mozallowfullscreen" msallowfullscreen="msallowfullscreen" oallowfullscreen="oallowfullscreen" src="//" webkitallowfullscreen="webkitallowfullscreen" width="300"></iframe><iframe allowfullscreen="allowfullscreen" allowtransparency="true" frameborder="0" height="314" mozallowfullscreen="mozallowfullscreen" msallowfullscreen="msallowfullscreen" oallowfullscreen="oallowfullscreen" src="//" webkitallowfullscreen="webkitallowfullscreen" width="300"></iframe></p> <p>Housing is the highest child-rearing expenditure, amounting to 30 percent of expenses for middle-income, husband-wife families with two children. Raising a child is costliest in the urban Northeast and least expensive in rural areas.</p> <div class="inline inline-left" style="display: table; width: 1%"><img alt="" class="image" src="/files/USDAInfoGraphic-630_0.jpg"><div class="caption">USDA</div> </div> <p>The report notes that child-rearing costs have grown 24 percent since 1960, when a middle-income family could have expected to spend $25,230 ($198,560 in 2013 dollars). The USDA has also released an <a href="" target="_blank">interactive calculator</a> to help families estimate child-rearing costs based on type of household, number of children, location, and income.</p></body></html> Blue Marble Economy Income Inequality Tue, 19 Aug 2014 10:00:05 +0000 Katie Rose Quandt 258586 at Are Your Kids' Rainbow Bracelets Toxic? <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p>Bracelets and other trinkets made on the wildly popular <a href="" target="_blank">Rainbow Loom</a>&mdash;a toy that allows kids to weave together brightly colored elastic bands&mdash;could contain cancer-causing chemicals, a British laboratory has found.</p> <p>In a study commissioned by a British toy retailer, the Assay Laboratory in Birmingham, United Kingdom, tested charms meant to be attached to bracelets and necklaces woven on the looms. The researchers found that while Rainbow Loom's own name-brand products were safe, some charms made by knockoff brands contained high levels of phthalates, a class of carcinogenic chemicals. Some of the knockoff charms were composed of as much as 50 percent (by weight) phthalates, the Irish blog <em><a href="" target="_blank">Mummy Pages</a></em> reports. (It's currently <a href="" target="_blank">illegal</a> in the United States to sell a toy that contains more than 0.1 percent of six kinds of phthalates, though some products still <a href="" target="_blank">slip through the cracks</a>.)</p> <p>Marion Wilson, a spokeswoman from the lab, told <em>Mummy Pages</em> that while only the charms were tested, it was likely that the bands themselves also contained phthalates. In an email to <em>Mother Jones</em>, Wilson declined to share the names of the brands that were found to have high phthalate levels. "We would never share our customer information as it is clearly commercially sensitive," she wrote. "However, please note that the customers that have received test results like this will have tested the product prior to it going on the market." It's unclear whether the brands tested at the lab are sold in the United States as well as in the United Kingdom.</p> <p>Phthalates aren't the only dangerous thing about Rainbow Looms: <em>BuzzFeed</em> <a href="" target="_blank">notes</a> other horrors, including injuries to children. Animal advocates in the Philippines <a href="" target="_blank">say</a> that the bands can harm creatures that swallow them.</p></body></html> Blue Marble Health Top Stories Tue, 12 Aug 2014 17:35:09 +0000 Kiera Butler 258186 at Video: "Holy Shit!" Freak Weather Event Stuns Brooklyn's Hipster Beach <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p><iframe allowfullscreen="" frameborder="0" height="473" src="//" width="630"></iframe></p> <p>The weekend peace and quiet of <a href="" target="_blank">McCarren&nbsp;Park</a>&nbsp;in Brooklyn, New York&mdash;sometimes dubbed the "hipster&nbsp;beach" by locals&mdash;was shattered on Sunday afternoon&acirc;&#128;&#139;&nbsp;by a strange, towering meteorological visitor. And also by the howls of my friend Michael Gambale, who took this&nbsp;video, yelling like the world was&nbsp;fast&nbsp;coming to an end.&nbsp;"It was amazing," he said. "I had my 'oh shit, a <a href="" target="_blank">double rainbow</a>'&nbsp;moment."&acirc;&#128;&#139;</p> <p>The spiraling, orange tunnel-like phenomenon appears to be a textbook specimen&nbsp;of a "dust devil", which according to the&nbsp;National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration&acirc;&#128;&#139; <a href="" target="_blank">definition</a>, is a&nbsp;"small, rapidly rotating wind that is made visible by the dust, dirt or debris it picks up." It's not a tornado, which is much more powerful and connected to a cloud, and certainly not as dangerous (though in 1992, an Alburquerque dust devil&nbsp;produced&nbsp;70 mph winds, <a href="" target="_blank">equivalent to a typical severe thunderstorm</a>.) Instead, <a href="" target="_blank">according to NASA</a>,&nbsp;"a dust devil typically forms on a clear day when the ground is heated by the sun, warming the air just above the ground. As heated air near the surface rises quickly through a small pocket of cooler air above it, the air may begin to rotate, if conditions are just right." And they were.</p> <p>According to Gambale, who was relaxing in the park with friends,&nbsp;it lasted about a minute, leaving some locals&nbsp;"perplexed", and others filled with a sense of adventure:&nbsp;"Some dude ran into it, that's why I said don't run into it," Gambale added. "And he did!&nbsp;He just got all dusty. It wasn't that strong obviously."</p> <p>But don't diss the dust devil by calling it weak or short-lived:&nbsp;"It's a dirtbag hipster tornado and it's Brooklyn's."</p> <p>The only other reference I could find to "twister" in McCarren&nbsp;park was of a very different kind:&nbsp;Mass "Twister" performed by a <a href="" target="_blank">marauding group of Santas for 2009's Santacon</a>. I like this one much better.</p> <p>See? Everything exciting happens in Brooklyn.</p></body></html> Blue Marble Video Climate Desk Sun, 10 Aug 2014 21:12:16 +0000 James West 258091 at Shorter Trees Could Make Peaches Cheaper <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p>When it comes to peach and nectarine trees, bigger isn't necessarily better. An orchard worker can spend as much as half of his or her day lugging around the ladders required to reach the branches of a typical 13-foot tree. Plus, the danger of climbing the ladders drives up the cost of workers' compensation insurance&mdash;growers of peaches and nectarines pay about 40 percent more for it than growers of low-lying fruit like grapes.</p> <p>Now <a href="" target="_blank">scientists at the University of California</a> are trying to shrink the cost of labor on peach and nectarine farms by shrinking the plants themselves. In a 4-acre orchard south of Fresno, researchers are growing trees that they expect to max out at seven or eight feet. They say the shorter trees, which would not require a ladder to harvest or prune, could cut down on worker injuries and slash labor costs by more than 50 percent. If cultivated correctly, the mini-trees could be as fruitful as their taller counterparts.</p> <p>If the experimental orchard works, it could have environmental perks too. In comments to UC Davis, one farmer estimated it costs him $1,400 an acre to thin his 250-acre peach and nectarine farm. Because of the high cost of ladders, many of his fellow growers are switching to almonds, he said. And almonds, <a href="" target="_blank">as we've said before</a>, are sucking California dry.</p></body></html> Blue Marble Food and Ag Fri, 08 Aug 2014 23:18:11 +0000 Rebecca Cohen 258066 at Humans Have Tripled Mercury in the Oceans <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p style="clear:none;">On&nbsp;<a href="">Thursday</a>, researchers released the first comprehensive study of mercury in the world's oceans over time according to depth.&nbsp;Their finding: Since the Industrial Revolution, the burning of fossil fuels and some mining activities have resulted in a more than three times increase in mercury in the upper 100 meters (about 330 feet) of the ocean. There, it builds up in carnivorous species like tuna&mdash;a food staple in the US that health experts&nbsp;<a href="">have been concerned about</a>&nbsp;for years because of its high mercury levels. Much of the 290 million moles (a unit of measure for chemical substances)&nbsp;of mercury in the ocean right now is concentrated in the North Atlantic.</p> <p style="clear:none;">A neurotoxin, mercury is especially dangerous for children and babies: The American Academy of Pediatrics&nbsp;<a href="">warns</a> that exposure to it can lead to "poor mental development, cerebral palsy, deafness and blindness." In adults, mercury poising can lead to problems with blood pressure regulation, memory, vision, and sensation in fingers and toes,&nbsp;<a href="">according to</a>&nbsp;the Natural Resources Defense Council. And if that wasn't scary enough, it's invisible, odorless, and hiding in fish meat.</p> <p style="clear:none;">The researchers say that the increase in mercury levels is starting to overcome the natural ocean circulation patterns. Typically, the coldest, saltiest water in the world's oceans naturally sinks and brings much of the mercury along with it, offering shelter to marine life from the chemicals. But now, because of the sheer volume of the stuff, the circulation of water can no longer keep mercury out of shallower depths. According to co-author Carl&nbsp;Lamborg, humans are "starting to overwhelm the ability of deep water formation to hide some of that mercury from us." According to David&nbsp;Krebbenhoft, a geochemist working for the US Geological Survey, these shifts are directly correlated to the increase in mercury outputs over time.</p> <p style="clear:none;">The good news: If we can curb power plant&nbsp;<a href="">mercury emissions</a>&nbsp;and buy more products with reduced mercury, we can expect to see ocean mercury levels drop in the future. Says&nbsp;Krebbenhoft, "It's cause for optimism and should make us excited to do something about it because we may actually have an impact."</p></body></html> Blue Marble Health Fri, 08 Aug 2014 17:23:51 +0000 Jenna McLaughlin 258011 at Wildfires Cause Nearly a Fifth of Manmade Carbon Emissions <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p>Wildfires are raging around the western United States: As of yesterday, more than <a href=",-oregon/" target="_blank">10,000</a> firefighters were battling 20 fires in Oregon and California. Another fire in Washington state recently grew to cover more than <a href="" target="_blank">8,000 acres</a>. While the immediate consequences of the blazes are obvious&mdash;scorched earth, destroyed homes, millions of dollars in damages&mdash;the longer-term consequences for the climate have, until now, been poorly understood.</p> <p>In a <a href="" target="_blank">study</a> published at the end of July in the <em>Journal of Geophysical Research</em>, Mark Jacobson, a Stanford University engineer, says the burning of biomass like trees, plants, and grass&mdash;either by accident or deliberately (often to create room for agriculture)&mdash;creates 18 percent of all human-caused carbon emissions. Worse yet, that pollution kills people: Around the world, Jacobson writes, biomass burning may account for 5-10 percent of all air pollution deaths worldwide, or about 250,000 people annually.</p> <p>Lightning strikes and lava flows can burn down forests just as effectively as campfires, cigarettes, and slash and burn agriculture. But worldwide, Jacobson notes, the proportion of wildfires that are caused by nature could be as low as 3.6 percent. The rest are started by humans.</p> <p>Possibly the worst news of all: Wildfires are part of a vicious circle. Emissions from fires cause climate change, which <a href="" target="_blank">leads</a> to drier conditions&mdash;which make it <a href="" target="_blank">easier</a> for humans and nature to start fires and for those fires to spread.</p></body></html> Blue Marble Climate Desk Science Thu, 07 Aug 2014 20:27:43 +0000 Alex Park 257936 at A Picture of Your Leg Hair Can Give Away Your Identity <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p>It's hard to forget Tom Cruise replacing his eyeballs in <em>Minority Report</em>. But in the future, that might not be enough to keep him hidden from the law.</p> <p>A few days ago, scientists at <a href="" target="_blank">MIT announced</a> they can listen in on conversations by videotaping a potato chip bag sitting next to the speakers. They could even identify who was talking.</p> <p>From your veins to your walk, sophisticated computer algorithms keep getting better at identifying you based on things there&rsquo;s no way to password protect. This research, called &ldquo;soft biometrics,&rdquo; is making it into ATMs, courtrooms, and even passports. Here are five creepy ways scientists can figure out who you are.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><strong>Your Potato Chips</strong></p> <p>You might not see the objects around you vibrate when you talk, but cameras do. And those vibrations carry enough information to identify your voice, or even eavesdrop on your conversation.</p> <p>With a regular digital camera pointed at a chip bag, a potted plant, or a glass of water, <a href="" target="blank">MIT researchers</a> could tell how many people were in a room, as well as the gender of each speaker. If they knew enough about a speaker's voice, they could even pick them out of the crowd. Give the scientists a high speed camera, and they can turn the vibrations into a high-tech wiretap.</p> <p><iframe allowfullscreen="" frameborder="0" height="354" src="//" width="630"></iframe></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><strong>Your Body Hair</strong></p> <div class="inline inline-right" style="display: table; width: 1%"><img alt="" class="image" src="/files/leg-hair-300.jpg"><div class="caption"><a href=";src=id" target="_blank">Roblan</a>/<em>Shutterstock</em></div> </div> <p>Your beach photos may give more away than you think. Chinese computer scientists have <a href=";tp=&amp;arnumber=6740829&amp;queryText%3DAn+evaluation+on+low+resolution+androgenic+hair+patterns+for+criminal+and+victim+identification" target="blank">written a program</a> that can take a low-resolution picture of a leg and identify it based on patterns in androgenic hair, which is hair you grow after puberty. It always grows in the same pattern, like a furry fingerprint. Other androgenic hair includes chest and pubic hair, beards, and even the coarse hair on your arms.</p> <p>The scientists tested extremely grainy photos, between 25 to 6.25 dots of "ink" per inch&mdash;for reference, inkjet printers generally print between 300 and 700 d.p.i. So it might be possible to ID someone in a Facebook photo that doesn't show a face, or even a video screencap.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><strong>Your Veins</strong></p> <div class="inline inline-right" style="display: table; width: 1%"><img alt="" class="image" src="/files/hand-veins-300.jpg"><div class="caption"><a href="" target="_blank">Derrick Tyson</a>/<em>Flickr</em></div> </div> <p>The pattern of blood vessels near the surface of your skin stays largely the same throughout your life. In Japan, many ATMs <a href="" target="blank">have you scan your palm</a> before taking out cash, and several Swedish stores <a href="" target="blank">let you pay with your veins</a>.</p> <p>The technology isn't only good for commercial purposes, though. Someday soon, you might be identified in a courtroom by a <a href=";arnumber=5995531" target="blank">color photo that shows only a patch of skin</a>.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><strong>Your Ears</strong></p> <div class="inline inline-right" style="display: table; width: 1%"><img alt="donkey ears" class="image" src="/files/donkey-ears-300_0.jpg"><div class="caption"><a href="http://H%C3%83%C2%A5kan%20Dahlstr%C3%83%C2%B6m" target="_blank">H&aring;kan Dahlstr&ouml;m</a>/Flickr</div> </div> <p>A few years ago, the internet lit up with news that airports might start snapping candids of all our ears as we walk through security. While ears still haven't taken the TSA by storm, there's certainly the <a href="" target="blank">technology to do it</a>.</p> <p>From birth on, our ears stay about the same shape, even as they get proportionally bigger. That gives ear shots a leg up over facial recognition, which will probably never be able to <a href="" target="blank">identify adults from childhood pictures</a>.</p> <p><br><strong>The Way You Walk</strong></p> <p><a href="" target="_blank">Gait analysis</a> is already in common use for forensics. Even in low-res security footage, everything from the way your head bobs to the length of your stride makes you unique. The <a href="" target="blank">Guinness Book of World Records </a>lists the first courtroom use of this kind of biomechanics as 2000, when a jury <a href="" target="blank">convicted a burglar</a> based on a grainy security video that showed the criminal's distinct walk.</p></body></html> Blue Marble Civil Liberties Science Thu, 07 Aug 2014 14:39:04 +0000 Cat Ferguson 257876 at Your House Is Killing You: Couch Edition <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p>Couch potatoes take heed: Sofas and beds, like so many other <a href="" target="_blank">household items</a> we hear about these days, might be messing with our bodies.</p> <p></p><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);"> See more MoJo coverage on fire retardants </p> </div> </div> <!-- linked stories --> <div id="mininav-linked-stories"> <ul><span id="linked-story-12052"> <li><a href="/politics/2008/03/should-you-ditch-your-chemical-mattress"> Should You Ditch Your Chemical Mattress?</a></li> </span> <span id="linked-story-178606"> <li><a href="/blue-marble/2012/05/flame-retardants-now-your-food"> Toxic Flame Retardants: Now In Your Food</a></li> </span> <span id="linked-story-237681"> <li><a href="/environment/2013/10/endocrine-disruptors-household-items"> Which 9 Household Items Will Make Your Hormones Go Haywire?</a></li> </span> <span id="linked-story-208606"> <li><a href="/blue-marble/2012/11/couch-flame-retardants-cancer-toxic"> Your Couch May Be Killing You</a></li> </span> </ul></div> <!-- footer content --> </div> <p>A <a href="" target="_blank">study</a> on fire retardants written by scientists at the Environmental Working Group and Duke University and published this week in <em>Environmental Science and Technology</em> delivered some pretty disturbing news: Of the 22 mothers and 26 children tested, 100 percent showed exposure to a fire retardant called <a href=",3-dichloro-2-propyl%29phosphate" target="_blank">TDCIPP</a>, a likely carcinogen, and the average concentration in children was nearly five times that of their moms. The study measured the concentration of fire retardant "biomarkers," or compounds produced when the fire retardants are broken down, in the participants'&nbsp;urine. In addition to finding TDCIPP, researchers found high levels of the chemicals used to make the popular fire retardant brand, <a href="" target="_blank">FireMaster</a>.</p> <p>The Environmental Working Group <a href="" target="_blank">report</a> accompanying the study explains, "People end up with fire retardants in their bodies mainly by inhaling or swallowing dust." Many flame retardants are "additives,"&nbsp;meaning that they are added to our furniture and other products instead of binding with chemicals through chemical reactions. This makes them a lot more likely to migrate out of the products in the form of dust.</p> <p>The researchers suspected that kids had higher exposure levels than their mothers simply because they spend more time on the floor, where dust accumulates, and because they put their hands in their mouths more. A <a href="" target="_blank">study</a> from earlier this year found that kids who wash their hands five or more times a day had fire retardants on their hands at concentration levels 30 to 50 percent lower than those who washed their hands less frequently.</p> <p>Here's a rundown of four of the chemicals examined in the most recent study, their associated health effects, and where they are commonly found:</p> <p><strong>TDCIPP</strong> is a common flame retardant in couches, mattresses, and other cushioned furniture. A 2012 Duke University <a href="" target="_blank">analysis</a> of 102 couch cushion samples found evidence of TDCIPP in more than half of the couches purchased after 2005. The scientists <a href="" target="_blank">also found</a> traces of the retardant in over a third of the 101 car seats, baby carriers, portable mattresses, and other baby products sampled. Animal studies have <a href=";rct=j&amp;q=&amp;esrc=s&amp;source=web&amp;cd=1&amp;ved=0CCAQFjAA&amp;;ei=fYThU_uJFIX7oASFuYG4CA&amp;usg=AFQjCNFTqkdbIaRONnrnM59_bzo5Cx333g&amp;sig2=9YJt3XCJYSqkYYCZ9Itt4w&amp;bvm=bv.72197243,d.cGU" target="_blank">shown</a> TDCIPP to cause tumors in multiple organs, and TDCIPP is listed in California as a carcinogen and labeled by the Consumer Product Safety Commission as a "probable carcinogen."&nbsp;The TDCIPP biomarker&nbsp;was found in 100 percent of kids and 100 percent of mothers. The children's concentrations were, on average, nearly five times larger than those of their own moms.</p> <p><strong>FireMaster components</strong>: Three of the chemicals studied are components of FireMaster 550 and FireMaster 600, two products of a fire retardant brand produced by chemical manufacturer <a href="" target="_blank">Chemtura</a> and commonly used in mattresses and furniture cushioning. The <a href="" target="_blank">2012 study</a> by researchers at Duke found evidence of FireMaster 550 in 18 percent of couches purchased after 2005 and 17 percent of baby products. The components:</p> <ul><li><a href="" target="_blank"><strong>TPhP</strong></a> is the second most frequently detected fire retardant in the foam of couches purchased after 2005 (after TDCIPP). In addition to being part of FireMaster 550, it&rsquo;s a common plasticizer in rubber and vinyl, used in things like shower curtains, and rubber and plastic toys. Not much is known about the health effects of TPhP, but recent studies show that TPhP could be an endocrine disruptor, associated with <a href="" target="_blank">decreased sperm count</a> and increased estrogenic activity. The TPhP biomarker was found in 100 percent of kids and 95 percent of mothers, with children showing concentrations nearly three times that of their mothers.</li> <li><strong>ip-TPhP</strong>, an isomer of TPhP, is another component of FireMaster 550. Like TPhP, little is known about the long-term health effects of ip-TPhP exposure.</li> <li><a href="" target="_blank"><strong>EH-TBB</strong></a> is a component of FireMaster 550 and 600. When combined with flame retardant TBPH in a 2008 study, it caused developmental and reproductive damage to lab animals. &nbsp;EH-TBB biomarkers were found in 70 percent of kids and 27 percent of mothers.</li> </ul><p>Amy Lamott, a representative Chemtura, acknowledged that these chemicals are in FireMaster products, but wrote, "We rigorously test our products to ensure the risk of health effects is low and the fire protection benefits are real. Our products have been approved by an EPA review process, and we review any study that might offer new information. In a real world environment, exposure levels of flame retardants are low&mdash;and the fire safety benefit outweighs any potential risk that has been found."</p> <p>The recent studies on flame retardants still beg the question: why are we putting these chemicals in furniture to begin with? Back in 1975, California passed a law requiring the foam of all furniture sold in the state to withstand the ignition of a small flame for twelve seconds. One cheap and easy way for furniture manufacturers to live up to the standard was apply large amounts of fire retardants to the foam&mdash;of the 102 couch foams sampled in the <a href="" target="_blank">2012 study</a> referenced above, 85 percent of them contained at least one fire retardant, and the chemicals accounted for as much as 11 percent of the weight of couch foam. Many furniture companies douse all of their foam in retardants in order to avoid making California-specific furniture, but because there are no federal labeling laws, consumers often can't tell what's in their furniture. The same 2012 study found that 60 percent of unlabeled couch foam samples contained fire retardants.</p> <p>When studies started suggesting that <a href="" target="_blank">PBDE</a>, a class of common flame retardants, was associated with neurodevelopmental problems in children, chemical manufacturers phased out PBDE chemicals between 2004 and 2013. The Duke/EWG study released this week was the first study to test exposure levels to flame retardants that have become popular since the phase out of PBDE.</p> <p>Despite all this glum news, things may be looking up. In 2012, California Governor Jerry Brown revised the flame law due to health concerns about flame retardants and the inefficacy of applying retardants to foam rather than to the surface of furniture. The new law, <a href="" target="_blank">effective January 1st</a> of this year, requires furniture manufacturers to meet a "smolder test" instead of the 12-second test. The flame retardants listed above aren't prohibited&mdash;they're simply not required to meet the new standards. Old furniture dispenses dust long after it's bought and it's too soon to tell how much the new law will affect chemical treatment of furniture, but for now, we can keep our (recently washed) fingers crossed.</p></body></html> Blue Marble Econundrums Health Science Wed, 06 Aug 2014 18:55:36 +0000 Julia Lurie 257766 at The Minnesota Vikings' New Stadium Will Be a "Death Trap" for Birds <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p>The Minnesota Vikings' new football stadium was supposed to be a point of pride for fans. The $1 billion state-of-the-art facility in the heart of downtown Minneapolis is set to be completed in 2016, and will put the <a href="" target="_blank">crumbling</a> Hubert H. Humphrey Metrodome out of its misery. But a number of groups are getting angrier about a darker side to this dream project: The stadium's shiny glass walls, which are almost certain to pose a lethal hazard to migrating birds.</p></body></html> <p style="font-size: 1.083em;"><a href="/blue-marble/2014/07/minnesota-vikings-new-stadium-will-kill-lot-birds"><strong><em>Continue Reading &raquo;</em></strong></a></p> Blue Marble Animals Sports Sat, 02 Aug 2014 10:00:06 +0000 Sam Brodey 257486 at Watch Drought Take Over the Entire State of California in One GIF <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p><span id="docs-internal-guid-36f40aff-8db7-54ad-b673-8f3e77369c0d">California, the producer of half of the nation's </span><a href="">fruits, veggies</a>, and <a href="">nuts</a>, is experiencing its third-worst drought on record. The dry spell is expected to cost the state billions of dollars and thousands of jobs, and farmers are digging into <a href="">groundwater supplies</a> to keep their crops alive. We've been keeping an eye on the drought with the <a href="">US Drought Monitor</a>, a USDA-sponsored program that uses data from soil moisture and stream flow, satellite imagery, and other indicators to produce weekly drought maps. Here's a GIF showing the spread of the drought, from last December 31&mdash;shortly before Gov. Jerry Brown declared a state of emergency&mdash;until July 29.</p> <div class="inline inline-center" style="display: table; width: 1%"><img alt="" class="image" src="/files/CA_DROUGHT_PUB_1_sec.gif"></div></body></html> Blue Marble Climate Change Food and Ag Top Stories Fri, 01 Aug 2014 10:00:11 +0000 Julia Lurie, AJ Vicens, and Alex Park 257461 at LA's Crappy Old Pipes Mean More Epic Floods Are Coming <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p>Yesterday at around 3:30 pm, a water main burst near the campus of UCLA in the Westwood neighborhood of Los Angeles. It <a href="" target="_blank">gushed for nearly three hours</a>, sending water as high as 30 feet into the air and flooding campus&mdash;cars' wheels were submerged, the brand-new basketball court was covered in standing water, eager students brought boogie boards. As much as <a href="" target="_blank">10 million gallons are estimated to have been lost</a>, at a rate of 38,000 gallons per minute.</p></body></html> <p style="font-size: 1.083em;"><a href="/blue-marble/2014/07/los-angeles-bad-pipes-epic-floods"><strong><em>Continue Reading &raquo;</em></strong></a></p> Blue Marble Wed, 30 Jul 2014 22:38:35 +0000 Sam Brodey 257361 at US Coal Exports Have Erased All The CO2 Savings From the Fracking Boom <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p>The domestic fracking boom has been widely celebrated as a godsend in the fight against climate change. In 2007, cheap natural gas began replacing dirtier coal as the fuel of choice in US power plants. By 2012, the switchover was annually saving an estimated 86 million tons of CO2, the carbon equivalent of taking 21 million cars off the road. That's obviously a huge accomplishment, but it comes with a lesser known catch: All of that coal we're no longer using is still getting dug up, sold off, and spewed into the atmosphere.</p> <p>The carbon pollution savings from our switch from coal to gas has been more than canceled out by an increase in our coal exports, according to <a href="" target="_blank">a recent study</a> by Shakeb Afsah of the group CO2 Scorecard. After the domestic market for coal dried up in 2007, US exports of steam coal increased by 83 million tons, resulting in the release of an additional 149 million metric tons of CO2. That's 73 percent more CO2 than Americans have saved so far by ditching the black stuff.</p> <p>The study is mentioned today in a <a href="" target="_blank">great story</a> by AP's Dina Cappiello, who looks at whether the coal exports will ultimately increase carbon emissions. Coal companies point to studies suggesting international demand for coal is fairly inelastic, meaning that if US coal exports suddenly disappeared, they would simply be replaced by coal from somewhere else. Yet other studies conclude that the US exports depress prices, driving up demand and delaying a switch to cleaner options.</p> <p><a href="" target="_blank">As I've previously noted</a>, huge new coal export terminals proposed on the West Coast have become the latest flash points in the climate wars. Cappiello points out that a single ship full of Appalachian coal, exported from Virginia to South America, contains enough greenhouse gas to match the annual emissions of a small American power plant.</p> <p>UPDATE: Cappiello's story has spawned new debate over whether coal exports increase emissions. Andrew Revkin <a href=";_type=blogs&amp;_php=true&amp;_type=blogs&amp;src=twr&amp;_r=1&amp;" target="_blank">weighs in</a>, and CO2 Scorecard <a href="" target="_blank">responds</a>.</p></body></html> Blue Marble Climate Change Energy Infrastructure Mon, 28 Jul 2014 22:37:33 +0000 Josh Harkinson 257096 at Obama Is About to Give You the Right to Unlock Your Phone <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p>Ever wondered why you can't transfer your old phone to a new carrier? The practice, known as cellphone unlocking, is illegal. It probably won't surprise you that in the '90s, wireless carriers&mdash;who, for obvious reasons, wanted everyone to buy new phones and plans&mdash;lobbied for a ban.</p> <p>As I <a href="" target="_blank">wrote</a> last year, this ban isn't just annoying and expensive for consumers, it's also wasteful. We only keep our phones for an average of 18 months , and when we get a new one, the old one seldom makes it to a recycling facility. Many languish in desk drawers; some end up in the garbage. That means a lot of electronic waste in landfills, not to mention the environmentally hazardous materials such as <a href="" target="_blank">rare earths</a> required to make all those new phones.</p> <p>So it's great news that today the House unanimously passed a <a href="" target="_blank">law</a> that would finally make phone unlocking legal. The Senate approved the measure last week. Now President Obama just needs to sign off, which he has <a href="" target="_blank">pledged</a> to do.</p> <p>After that, if you unearth that old phone from the desk drawer, someone might actually be able to use it.</p></body></html> Blue Marble Econundrums Tech Fri, 25 Jul 2014 21:26:09 +0000 Kiera Butler 257011 at PETA's Five Most Tone-Deaf Stunts <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p>Proving once again PETA is unfamiliar with how to a deliver meaningful publicity campaign, the animal rights group is now looking to score a win off poor people's thirst.</p> <p>Some background: The bankrupt city of Detroit has been shutting off its tap water to thousands of poor residents in order to force them to pay for nearly <a href="" target="_blank">$90 million </a>in overdue water bills. Advocates have slammed the move, calling out the city for eliminating a basic human right. The <a href="" target="_blank">NAACP recently filed a lawsuit</a> calling the shut down discriminatory, as most of Detroit's low-income residents are overwhelmingly black.</p> <p>It takes a certain type of callousness to look at this situation and see anything other than misfortune. PETA saw an opportunity! The animal rights group has made an offer to poor Detroit residents: Be one of 10 families to denounce meat and they'll put an end to your family's thirst. <a href="" target="_blank">PETA will even throw in a basket of vegetables for the effort.</a></p> <p>"Vegan meals take far less of a toll on the Earth&rsquo;s resources," PETA wrote in a <a href="" target="_blank">recent press release</a>. "It takes about 2,500 gallons of water to produce just a pound of meat but only about 155 gallons of water to produce a pound of wheat."</p> <p>This seems like as good a time as any to look back on PETA's misguided and often times exploitative PR campaigns of the past:</p> <p><strong>1. "Boyfriend went vegan and knocked the bottom out of me." (2012)</strong></p> <p><iframe allowfullscreen="" frameborder="0" height="354" src="//" width="630"></iframe></p> <p>Enhance your sex life by e<a href="" target="_blank">ncouraging your boyfriend to go vegan.</a> He'll transform into a "tantric porn star," breaking your neck and causing your body to go limp. The sex will be so mind-blowing, in fact, you'll wander aimlessly in just a bra, as you reflect on the violent sex you had the pleasure of subjecting yourself to the evening prior.</p> <p><strong>2. "Holocaust on your plate." (2003)</strong></p> <p><a href="" target="_blank">Here</a> the group matches photos of factory farms with Holocaust inmates. The display was promptly banned in Germany&mdash;a move PETA found absurd considering a Jewish PETA member happened to fund the campaign.</p> <p><strong>3. Too fat for Plan B?</strong> <strong>Try "Plan V." (2013)</strong></p> <p><img alt="" class="image" src="/files/screen_shot_2013-12-02_at_3.24.35_pm_0.png"></p> <p>Jumping on news Plan B may not work as well for women over 165 pounds, PETA <a href="" target="_blank">urges women</a> to shed a few pounds by going vegan.</p> <p><strong>4. Dog breeding is for Nazis. (2014)</strong></p> <p><img alt="" class="image" src="/files/020714dog.jpg"></p> <p>Again conjuring up the atrocities of the Holocaust, which lets keep in mind systematically killed 11 million people, the <a href="" target="_blank">group equates dog breeding to Hitler's plan to bring about a pure Aryan race.</a></p> <p><strong>5. Don a fur coat and you'll be beaten. (2007)</strong></p> <p><iframe allowfullscreen="" frameborder="0" height="354" src="//" width="630"></iframe></p> <p>The <a href="" target="_blank">disturbing video</a> above even seems to justify senseless violence.</p> <p>Detroit has already severed off the tap water supply to nearly 125,000 people, with thousands more likely to have their resources shut down in weeks to come. And anyone with a remote interest in current events understands most Detroiters are low-income residents, m<a href=";_type=blogs&amp;_r=0" target="_blank">any of whom could not afford to have a vegan diet.</a></p> <p>Nice going, PETA.</p></body></html> Blue Marble Animals Fri, 25 Jul 2014 20:23:46 +0000 257006 at You'd Scream, Too, If You Were This Close to a Collapsing Iceberg <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p><iframe allowfullscreen="" frameborder="0" height="354" src="//" width="630"></iframe></p> <p>Climate change is melting ice at both ends of the planet&mdash;just ask the researchers who <a href="" target="_blank">published two papers</a> in May saying that a major expanses of antarctic ice are now undergoing a "continuous and rapid retreat" and may have "passed the point of no return."</p> <p>As the poles melt, icebergs are breaking off and drifting with greater ease, creating a world of problems for humans and animals alike. In Antarctica, warmer winters mean icebergs aren't held in place as they once were, and are now <a href="" target="_blank">colliding with the ocean floor</a> more frequently, laying waste to a complex ecosystem. In Greenland, summer icebergs&mdash; like one <a href="" target="_blank">twice the size of Manhattan</a> that broke off 2012&mdash;can clog up shipping lanes and damage offshore oil platforms.</p> <p>But whether climate change set it free or not, even a single 'berg can be dangerous if you get too close, as this couple discovered when they took a look at one floating off the coast of Newfoundland, in eastern Canada.</p> <p><a href="" target="_blank">h/t to Minnesota Public Radio News</a> for finding this one.</p></body></html> Blue Marble Video Climate Desk Fri, 25 Jul 2014 17:54:11 +0000 Alex Park 256966 at Popular Anti-Science Site Likens Journalists to "Nazi Collaborators" Over GMO Coverage <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p><em><strong>Update: </strong>Adams has appended a note to the story that likened journalists to Nazis: "After careful analysis, I have come to the conclusion that the Monsanto Collaborators website is a bait-and-switch trap engineered by the biotech industry in an effort to lure in support from&nbsp;GMO&nbsp;skeptics and then discredit them with some sort of insane 'call to action'&nbsp;of some kind....For the record, in no way do I condone vigilante violence against anyone."</em></p> <p>For years, <em>Natural News</em>&mdash;a conspiracy-minded alternative medicine website that attracts <a href="" target="_blank">roughly 7 million unique visitors</a> each month&mdash;has been crusading against the practice of genetically modifying food. But this week the site's proprietor, Mike Adams, took the campaign to new extremes with <a href="" target="_blank">a post</a> comparing journalists who are critical of GMO activists to "Nazi collaborators." Adams also urged readers "to actively plan and carry out the killing of those engaged in heinous crimes against humanity." Below is a snippet from his anti-media diatribe:</p> <blockquote> <p>Monsanto is widely recognize as the most hated and most evil corporation on the planet. Even so, several internet-based media websites are now marching to Monsanto's orders, promoting GMOs and pursuing defamatory character assassination tactics against anyone who opposes GMOs, hoping to silence their important voices.</p> <p>These Monsanto collaborator sites tend to be "leftist" publications but also include at least one prominent business and finance publisher on the political right. All of them are Monsanto collaborators who have signed on to accelerate heinous crimes being committed against humanity under the false promise of "feeding the world" with toxic GMOs.</p> </blockquote> <p>The rambling post goes on to compare the agrochemical giant Monsanto to IG Farben, a "chemical conglomerate run by Nazi collaborators" that "used Jewish prisoners as human guinea pigs in horrific medical experiments." And it calls on readers to target journalist who Adams views as pro-GMO by publicly listing their names:</p> <blockquote> <p>Just as history needed to record the names and deeds of Nazi war criminals, so too must all those collaborators who are promoting the death and destruction caused by GMOs be named for the historical record. The true extent of their collaboration with an anti-human regime will all become readily apparent once the GMO delusion collapses and mass global starvation becomes an inescapable reality.</p> <p>I'm hoping someone will create a website listing all the publishers, scientists and journalists who are now Monsanto propaganda collaborators. I have no doubt such a website would be wildly popular and receive a huge influx of visitors, and it would help preserve the historical record of exactly which people contributed to the mass starvation and death which will inevitably be unleashed by GMO agriculture (which is already causing mass suicides in India and crop failures worldwide).</p> </blockquote> <p>Adams, a self-proclaimed nutritionist who <a href="" target="_blank">was featured on Dr. Oz earlier this year</a>, is <a href="" target="_blank">famous for his far-fetched ideas</a>. He <a href="" target="_blank">believes</a>, for example, that Americans are being poisoned by lead-infused "chemtrails" and that Microsoft is developing infertility <a href="" target="_blank">drugs that "target specific races."</a>&nbsp; David Gorski of the website <a href="">Science-Based Medicine</a> has dubbed <em>Natural News</em> "a one-stop shop" for "virtually every quackery known to humankind, all slathered with a heaping, helping of unrelenting hostility to science-based medicine and science in general."</p> <p>Still, Adams has a large pool of readers who take his ideas seriously. After he published his screed likening journalists to Nazi sympathizers, a "Monsanto Collaborators" website appeared with images of Nazi soldiers and emaciated corpses alongside a list of reporters whom Adams accuses of being in the GMO industry's pocket. The heading reads "Journalist Collaborators."</p></body></html> Blue Marble Food and Ag Health Top Stories Fri, 25 Jul 2014 10:00:11 +0000 Mariah Blake 256946 at Study Finds Kids Prefer Healthier Lunches. School Food Lobby Refuses to Believe It. <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p>From all of the commotion around the new federal school lunch standards, you'd think they were really Draconian. Republican legislators have <a href="" target="_blank">railed against them</a>. Districts have <a href="" target="_blank">threatened</a> to opt out. The School Nutrition Association (SNA), the industry group that represents the nation's 55,000 school food employees, has officially <a href="" target="_blank">opposed</a> some of them&mdash;and <a href="" target="_blank">doubled its lobbying</a> in the months leading up to July 1, when some of the new rules took effect.</p> <p>Here's who doesn't mind the new standards: kids. For a <a href="" target="_blank">study</a> just published in the peer-reviewed journal <em>Childhood Obesity, </em>researchers asked administrators and food service staff at 537 public elementary schools how their students were liking the meals that conformed to the new standards. Half of those surveyed said that the students "complained about the meals at first," but 70 percent said that the students now like the new lunches. Rural districts were the least enthusiastic about the new meals&mdash;there, some respondents reported that purchasing was down and that students were eating less of their meals. But respondents from schools with a high percentage of poor students&mdash;those with at least two-thirds eligible for free or reduced-price meals&mdash;were especially positive about the new standards: They found that "more students were buying lunch and that students were eating more of the meal than in the previous year."</p> <p>"Kids who really need good nutrition most at school are getting it," says&nbsp;<a href="" target="_blank">Lindsey Turner</a>, the <em>Childhood Obesity</em> study's lead author and a research scientist at the University of Illinois-Chicago. "That's really good news."</p> <p>SNA's response? To issue a <a href="" target="_blank">statement</a> declaring that "these reported perceptions about school meals do not reflect reality." The group cites USDA data that participation in school meals has declined by 1.4 million since the new rules went into effect in 2012. But Turner, the <em>Childhood Obesity</em> study's lead author, notes that this is only about a 3 percent drop. She also points to a Government Accountability Office <a href="" target="_blank">study</a> that found that most of the drop-off was among students who pay full price for lunch.</p> <p>What makes SNA's stance on the new rules even stranger is that they actually are not all that strict. For example: Foods served must be whole grain rich, but as I <a href="" target="_blank">learned</a> from my trip to SNA's annual conference last week, that includes whole-grain Pop Tarts, Cheetos, and Rice Krispies Treats. Students are required to take a half cup of a fruit or vegetable&mdash;but <a href="" target="_blank">Italian ice</a>&mdash;in flavors like Hip Hoppin' Jelly Bean&mdash;are fair game.</p> <p>Not all members of SNA consider the task of tempting kids with healthy foods onerous. As I reported last week, Jessica Shelly, food director of Cincinnati's diverse public schools, has <a href="" target="_blank">shown</a> that all it takes is a little creativity.</p> <p>HT <a href="" target="_blank">The Lunch Tray</a>.</p></body></html> Blue Marble Food and Ag Tue, 22 Jul 2014 19:29:37 +0000 Kiera Butler 256741 at