Blue Marble Feed | Mother Jones Mother Jones logo en Watch a US Senator Use a Snowball to Deny Global Warming <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><div style="text-align:center"><script type="text/javascript" src=";width=630&amp;height=526&amp;playList=518674036"></script></div> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><em>This <a href="" target="_blank">story</a> was first published by the </em><a href="" target="_blank">Huffington Post</a> <em>and is reproduced here via the <a href="" target="_blank">Climate Desk</a> collaboration.</em></p> <p>The Senate's most vocal critic of the scientific consensus on climate change, Jim Inhofe of Oklahoma, tossed a snowball on the Senate floor Thursday as part of his case for why global warming is a hoax.</p> <p>Inhofe, who wrote the book <em>The Greatest Hoax: How the Global Warming Conspiracy Threatens Your Future</em>, took to the floor to decry the "hysteria on global warming."</p> <p>"In case we have forgotten, because we keep hearing that 2014 has been the warmest year on record, I ask the chair, 'You know what this is?'" he said, holding up a snowball. "It's a snowball, from outside here. So it's very, very cold out. Very unseasonable."</p> <p>"Catch this," he said to the presiding officer, tossing the blob of snow.</p> <p>Inhofe went on to list the recent cold temperatures across parts of the United States, which included <a href="">67 new record lows</a> earlier this week according to the National Weather Service, as evidence that global warming claims are overhyped. "We hear the perpetual headline that 2014 has been the warmest year on record. But now the script has flipped."</p> <p>Despite the record lows in some parts of the country, the <a href="">nation overall</a> has been experiencing a warmer than average winter.</p></body></html> Blue Marble Video Climate Change Climate Desk Top Stories Fri, 27 Feb 2015 16:09:26 +0000 Kate Sheppard 271101 at This Koala Is So Cute You'll Want It To Get Away With Stealing This Kid's Car <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><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=4078665676001&amp;playerID=3680665367001&amp;playerKey=AQ~~,AAACKW9LH8k~,A7HfECo5t7CatyA-8fEJ4LzBn7uU7ewe&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=4078665676001&amp;playerID=3680665367001&amp;playerKey=AQ~~,AAACKW9LH8k~,A7HfECo5t7CatyA-8fEJ4LzBn7uU7ewe&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>Never leave your Land Rover unattended in the Outback. This <a href="" target="_blank">"cheeky"</a> koala tried to drive off before the car's owner, a teen about to return home from school, foiled its getaway.</p> <blockquote class="twitter-tweet" lang="en"> <p>Koala accused of trying to steal family car says he's just waiting for a mate <a href=""></a></p> </blockquote> <p>Happy Wednesday.</p></body></html> Blue Marble Video Animals Wed, 25 Feb 2015 21:52:57 +0000 Tim McDonnell 270971 at Obama Just Vetoed the GOP's Keystone Bill <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p>We knew this was coming: About a month after the Senate narrowly passed a bill to force President Barack Obama to approve the Keystone XL pipeline, the president vetoed the bill Tuesday afternoon, hours after the White House said he would do so "without drama or fanfare or delay."</p> <p>From the <a href="" target="_blank">AP</a>:</p> <blockquote> <p>The contentious legislation arrived at the White House on Tuesday morning from Capitol Hill, where Republicans pushed the bill quickly through both chambers in their first burst of activity since taking full control of Congress....</p> <p itemprop="articleBody">The move sends the politically charged issue back to Congress, where Republicans have yet to show they can muster the two-thirds majority in both chambers needed to override Obama's veto. Sen. John Hoeven, the bill's chief GOP sponsor, said Republicans are about four votes short in the Senate and need about 11 more in the House.</p> </blockquote> <p itemprop="articleBody">The veto, which the White House has long promised on this or any other Keystone-approval bill, is the <a href="" target="_blank">first one</a> in the last five years. It essentially blocks what Republican leaders like Sen. Mitch McConnell (Ky.) have called a top priority of this congressional session.</p> <p itemprop="articleBody">Obama's beef with the bill isn't necessarily with the pipeline itself. Instead, the president wants the approval process to go through the State Department, which normally has jurisdiction over international infrastructure projects.</p> <p itemprop="articleBody">In his <a href="" target="_blank">memo</a> to the Senate, the president said: "Because this act of Congress conflicts with established executive branch procedures and cuts short thorough consideration of issues that could bear on our national interest&mdash;including our security, safety, and environment&mdash;it has earned my veto."</p> <p itemprop="articleBody">The administration still hasn't indicated whether it will approve the pipeline, even though there aren't any more bureaucratic hurdles to clear. Early this month, the window for government agencies to weigh in closed. The most significant comment came from the <a href="" target="_blank">Environmental Protection Agency</a>, which said that if oil prices go much lower than they are, moving oil from Canada by truck or train could become too expensive. So a green-light for the pipeline would lead to greater greenhouse gas emissions than if it were not approved.</p> <p itemprop="articleBody">The final question now is whether the president agrees.</p> <p itemprop="articleBody"><em>This post has been updated.</em></p></body></html> Blue Marble Climate Change Climate Desk Obama Top Stories Infrastructure Tue, 24 Feb 2015 20:19:07 +0000 Tim McDonnell 270866 at Exploding Oil Trains Could Become a Horrifying New Normal <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p>Last week, a train carrying oil from North Dakota <a href="" target="_blank">derailed in West Virginia</a>, spilled oil into a river, and sent a horrifying fireball shooting into the sky. The incident came only a few days after another oil train spill in Ontario. In fact, in the last few years the number of oil train accidents has <a href="" target="_blank">skyrocketed</a>, thanks to booming production in the northern US and Canada that has overwhelmed the existing pipeline network.</p> <p>Oil train accidents like those could become a regular fixture in headlines across the US, according to a Department of Transportation analysis uncovered by the <a href="" target="_blank">Associated Press</a> over the weekend:</p> <blockquote> <p>The federal government predicts that trains hauling crude oil or ethanol will derail an average of 10 times a year over the next two decades, causing more than $4 billion in damage and possibly killing hundreds of people if an accident happens in a densely populated part of the U.S.&hellip;</p> <p>If just one of those more severe accidents occurred in a high-population area, it could kill more than 200 people and cause roughly $6 billion in damage.</p> </blockquote> <p>The report blamed the projections on the drastic uptick in oil-by-rail traffic, as well as on severely lagging safety standards for rail cars (check out our in-depth multimedia story on the latter <a href="" target="_blank">here</a>).</p></body></html> Blue Marble Climate Change Climate Desk Energy Infrastructure Mon, 23 Feb 2015 17:11:55 +0000 Tim McDonnell 270776 at Eat Like A Mongolian, Not Like An American <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p>The world, as a whole, is getting <a href="" target="_blank">less hungry</a>. Over the past two decades, the levels of undernutrition in developing countries from Sub-Saharan Africa to Southeast Asia have declined. Unfortunately, so has the quality of our diets.</p> <p>That's the main takeaway of a <a href="" target="_blank">study published by The Lancet Global Health</a> on Wednesday that looked at the dietary patterns across 187 countries&mdash;comprising about 89 percent of the global population&mdash;in 1990 and 2010. Check out the maps below, which break down eating habits by country on a scale of green (the healthiest) to red (the unhealthiest). The first map shows which countries are eating the most healthy foods like whole grains, fruits, vegetables, fish, nuts and seeds, beans and legumes, and milk (see, for example, Chad, the Central African Republic, Mali, and Turkey). The second map shows which countries are eating the most unhealthy foods that are high in fat and salt, as well as sugary drinks, unprocessed red meats and processed meats (see the United States, Russia, Austria, the Czech Republic, and Brazil, among others).</p> <div class="inline inline-center" style="display: table; width: 1%"> <div class="inline inline-center" style="display: table; width: 1%"> <div class="inline inline-center" style="display: table; width: 1%"><img alt="" class="image" src="/files/map1.jpeg"><div class="caption">Fumiaki Imamura et al / The Lancet Global Health</div> </div> </div> </div> <p>The next three maps show changes in dietary patterns from 1990 to 2010, again on a color scale, with green countries making healthy changes and red countries making unhealthy changes. Russia, Mongolia, Laos, and Paraguay are outpacing many other countries with their increase in nutritious foods, as the top map shows, while the second map reveals that Uganda, Vietnam, and Armenia are quickly finding a taste for fatty or sugary treats. And when it comes to overall dietary changes since 2010, shown in the last map, it seems that China, Angola, and Congo aren't doing very well.</p> <div class="inline inline-center" style="display: table; width: 1%"> <div class="inline inline-center" style="display: table; width: 1%"><img alt="" class="image" src="/files/mapdiet2.jpg"><div class="caption">Fumiaki Imamura et al / The Lancet Global Health</div> </div> </div> <p>A team of researchers made these maps by evaluating hundreds of national surveys about diets. Looking at the big picture, they found that people around the world are, on average, eating more nutritious foods than they did 20 years ago, but they're also digging into more junk&mdash;much more junk. "Consumption of healthier foods and nutrients has modestly increased during the past two decades; however, consumption of unhealthy foods and nutrients has increased to a greater extent," the researchers explained.</p> <p>On average, older adults are eating better than younger adults, while women are eating better than men. There are also major differences regionally, depending on countries' income levels. While people in the United States, Canada and western Europe are among the worst in the world for high consumption of unhealthy food, they're eating less junk than they used to, which helps explain reductions in blood pressure, blood cholesterol, and cardiovascular mortality in these countries. By comparison, people in many developing countries eat relatively healthy diets, but they're eating more junk than they did in the past.</p> <p>These socioeconomic variations have ramifications for public health. International food programs usually focus on fighting hunger, but in nearly every region of the world, the researchers said, diet-related health problems due to undernutrition are now less common than those due to non-communicable chronic diseases, and the food we eat plays a role in causing many of these diseases. By 2020, nearly three-quarters of all deaths globally will be attributable to non-communicable chronic diseases, they said, adding that without major changes to diet quality, these diseases and obesity will become much more common among the world's poor.</p> <p>It's unclear exactly why low-income countries are eating more unhealthy foods, but the reasons are probably varied. In northwest sub-Saharan Africa, the researchers said, food prices have increased and diet quality has worsened, perhaps due to economic liberalization and marketing of unhealthy foods to the region's wealthiest people. Violent conflicts might also play a role in certain countries, by hindering food production and trade. "Our work should help to link the possible economic and political factors to actual diets," they wrote, "and to assess determinants of the potential divergence in consumption of healthy foods in the poorest nations in the world."</p></body></html> Blue Marble Maps Food and Ag Health International Fri, 20 Feb 2015 19:29:18 +0000 Samantha Michaels 270661 at Here's What the Government Thinks You Should Be Eating in 2015 <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p>Earlier this week, I <a href="" target="_blank">wrote about some of the nutrition</a> controversies surrounding the release of new United States Dietary Guidelines in 2015. The Guidelines, which inform public health initiatives, food labels, and what health-conscious parents decide to make for dinner, are revised every five years, with help from a scientific committee.</p> <p>Today, that committee released its initial <a href="" target="_blank">scientific report</a>, an extensive 572-page tome on all the current thinking about healthy diets.</p> <p>So what are we eating&mdash;and what should we be eating&mdash;in 2015?</p> <ul><li>Perhaps the biggest change this year could breathe some life into your breakfast habits: The <strong>cholesterol</strong> in egg yolks is no longer as much of a health concern. The US Dietary Guidelines used to recommend that you eat no more than 300 milligrams of dietary cholesterol a day, or under two large eggs. But this year, the committee has scrapped that advice as new research suggests that the cholesterol you consume in our diets has little to do with your blood cholesterol. Saturated fats and trans fats, on the other hand, could boost your blood cholesterol levels, as could unlucky genes.</li> <li>The committee found that Americans lack vitamin D, calcium, potassium, and fiber in their diets. We also eat too few whole grains. On the other hand, we eat far <strong>too much sodium and saturated fat</strong>. Two-thirds of people over age 50, those most at risk for cardiovascular disease, still eat more than the upper limit, or 10 percent of their daily calories from saturated fat.</li> <li>Gardeners, rejoice: The committee applauds <strong>vegetables</strong> in its latest report, describing them as "excellent sources of many shortfall nutrients and nutrients of public health concern." Unfortunately, our veggie intake has declined in recent years, especially for kids. Only 10 percent of toddlers eats the recommended 1 cup of vegetables a day.</li> <li><strong>Added sugars</strong>, which make up 13.4 percent of our calorie intake every day, contribute to obesity, cavities, high blood pressure, and potentially cardiovascular disease. If you are in tip top shape, the committee suggests keeping your added sugar consumption under 10 percent of your daily energy intake, or roughly 12 teaspoons (including fruit juice concentrates and syrups). But for most people, the report adds, the ideal amount of added sugars is between 4.5 to 9.4 teaspoons a day, depending on your BMI.</li> <li>Most adults are fine to keep drinking&nbsp;<strong>alcohol</strong> in moderation&mdash;one cup a day for women, and up to two for men. "However," writes the the committee, "it is not recommended that anyone begin drinking or drink more frequently on the basis of potential health benefits."</li> <li>Be it m&aacute;te, espresso, or chai, your <strong>caffeine</strong> habit is fine in moderation, up to 400 mg a day (3-5 cups of coffee). But before you start handing out the Rockstars: The committee found evidence that high levels of caffeine, such as those found in energy drinks, are harmful to kids and pregnant women. (Plus: See above for the danger of the added sugars found in many of these energy drinks).</li> <li>Seafood is a pretty healthy thing to eat from a dietary standpoint, and concerns about mercury don't outweigh the health benefits of eating <strong>fish</strong>, according to the committee. And yet, the collapse of fisheries due to overfishing "has raised concern about the ability to produce a safe and affordable supply." The report suggests that both <a href="" target="_blank">farm-raised</a> and wild caught seafood will be needed to feed us in the future.</li> <li>The committee found that a diet "higher in <strong>plant-based foods</strong>...and lower in calories and animal-based foods is more health promoting and is associated with less environmental impact than is the current US diet." A group of 49 environmental and animal-welfare groups sent <a href="" target="_blank">a letter</a> to the US Departments of Agriculture and Health and Human Services to urge them to embrace this sustainability-oriented message in their Dietary Guidelines, which are set to be released later in 2015.</li> </ul><p>&nbsp;</p></body></html> Blue Marble Food and Ag Health Top Stories Fri, 20 Feb 2015 01:09:20 +0000 Maddie Oatman 270656 at A Superbug Nightmare Is Playing Out at an LA Hospital <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p>In today's terrifying health news, the<em> Los Angeles Times</em> <a href="" target="_blank">reports</a> that two medical scopes used at UCLA's Ronald Reagan Medical Center may have been contaminated with the potentially deadly, antibiotic-resistant bacteria carbapenem-resistant <em>Enterobacteriaceae</em> (<a href="" target="_blank">CRE</a>). Two patients have died from complications that may be connected to the bacteria, and authorities believe that 179 more patients have been exposed.</p> <p>Most healthy people aren't at risk of catching a CRE infection, but in hospitals this bacteria can be quite dangerous: CRE kills as many as half of all people in whom the infection has spread to the bloodstream. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) are working with the California Department of Public Health to investigate the situation, which is expected to result in more infections.</p> <p>The problem isn't just in Los Angeles, though. Last month, <em>USA Today </em><a href="" target="_blank">reported </a>that hospitals around the country struggle with transmissions of bacteria on these scopes&mdash;medical devices commonly used to treat digestive-system problems&mdash;and there have been several other under-the-radar outbreaks of CRE.</p> <p>This is pretty scary stuff, considering that we are starting to fall behind in the antibiotics arms race against bacteria. Due in large part to <a href="" target="_blank">unnecessary</a> medical prescriptions and <a href="" target="_blank">overuse of antibiotics in our food supply</a>, these superbugs are on the rise. In a <a href="" target="_blank">study</a> published last year that focused specifically on hospitals in the Southeast, researchers reported that CRE cases had increased fivefold between 2008 and 2012.</p> <p>As <em>Mother Jones</em>' Tom Philpott <a href="" target="_blank">wrote</a> recently, unless something changes, it will only get worse:</p> <blockquote> <p>in a <a href="" target="_blank">new report</a>, the UK government has come out with some startling global projections. Currently, the report finds, 700,000 people die annually from pathogens that have developed resistance to antibiotics, a figure the report calls a "low estimate." If present trends continue, antibiotic failure will claim 10 million lives per year by 2050, the report concludes. That's more carnage than what's currently caused by cancer and traffic accidents <em>combined.</em></p> </blockquote> <p>The CDC has, in recent years, <a href="" target="_blank">amped up its efforts </a>to contain the growth of antibiotic-resistant bacteria and has developed a <a href="" target="_blank">toolkit</a> to help educate both patients and medical practitioners. The Obama administration has increased funding in 2015 for CDC research into how to better detect these types of infections. It also expanded the National Healthcare Safety Network to track threats of superbugs and areas of antibiotic overuse.</p> <p>But the CDC <a href="" target="_blank">emphasizes</a> that more must be done:</p> <blockquote> <p>Can you imagine a day when antibiotics don't work anymore? It's concerning to think that the antibiotics that we depend upon for everything from skin and ear infections to life-threatening bloodstream infections could no longer work. Unfortunately, the threat of untreatable infections is very real.</p> </blockquote></body></html> Blue Marble Health Top Stories Thu, 19 Feb 2015 11:00:11 +0000 Gabrielle Canon 270611 at Is the Government About to Warn America Against Meat? <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p>Every five years, the United States Departments of Agriculture (USDA) and Health and Human Services (HHS) get together to revise their recommendations about what Americans should eat. These guidelines influence doctors' health advice, food labels, the ever evolving food <a href="" target="_blank">pyramid-turned-plate</a>, and what goes into school lunches. For instance, in <a href="" target="_blank">2010</a>, a time when more than half of adults were overweight or obese, the agencies recommended things like drinking water instead of sugary beverages, filling half your plate with fruits and veggies, cutting sodium, and just eating less in general.</p> <p>It's 2015, so time for some new advice. The guidelines draw on input from the Dietary Guidelines for Americans Committee (DGAC), which will publish a report <a href="" target="_blank">sometime</a> this winter. So what are the hottest items under debate this year? Here's a run-down of what to look for in the upcoming Dietary Guidelines for Americans report:</p> <p><strong>The meat vs. plants showdown: </strong>It probably comes as no surprise that <a href="" target="_blank">Americans eat</a> a diet lacking in fruits and vegetables and full of too many solid fats. In fact, vegetable consumption was on the decline between 2001 and 2010 even as each of us now <a href="" target="_blank">eat 202.3 pounds of meat a year</a>; a bit less red meat than a few years ago but more poultry than ever before. In the past, the government has warned against overdoing it with red meat and urged people to chow down on lean meats like chicken and fish instead. But this year, for the first time, the committee might caution against overconsumption of all kinds of meat&mdash;and not just for health reasons, but also because of meat's environmental footprint. Livestock operations now produce&nbsp;15 percent of the world's carbon emissions. Eating fewer animal-based foods "is more health promoting and is associated with a lesser environmental impact," the committee suggested in its draft report.</p> <p>Which of course has ruffled the meat industry. Removing lean meat from healthy diet recommendations is "stunning,"&nbsp;read <a href="" target="_blank">a recent statement</a> by the North American Meat Institute. "The committee's focus on sustainability is questionable because it is not within the committee's expertise."</p> <p><strong>Cholesterol is back: </strong>Your body makes its own cholesterol but you also get some when you eat animal fats, including eggs. Previous guidelines warned that too much of the waxy substance in the blood leads to higher risk of heart disease, and <a href="" target="_blank">recommended</a> that adults consume no more than 300 milligrams of cholesterol a day. But this year's guidelines might downplay dietary cholesterol's risk, marking the comeback of the daily omelet.&nbsp;The DGAC's December meeting notes stated that "cholesterol is not considered a nutrient of concern for overconsumption."</p> <p>"We now know that cholesterol in the diet makes very little difference in terms of bad cholesterol in the blood," University of Pennsylvania's molecular biologist Dan Rader <a href="" target="_blank">told <em>Forbes</em></a>. People get high cholesterol in the blood because of their genes or because the body's mechanisms for cleaning out blood cholesterol aren't working properly, he explains.</p> <p>We've been cautioned against cholesterol in our diets for the last fifty years, ever since the American Heart Association warned about it in 1961, <a href="" target="_blank">reports the </a><a href="" target="_blank"><em>Washington Post</em></a><a href="" target="_blank">.</a> But in late 2013, a task force including the AHA found "insufficient evidence" in studies it reviewed to warn&nbsp;most people against eating foods high in the substance, such as eggs, shellfish, and red meat. &nbsp;</p> <p><strong>Put down the soda:</strong> I repeat: Put down the soda. Americans consume way too much added sugar, 22 to 30 teaspoons a day <a href="" target="_blank">by some estimates</a>, or nearly four times the healthy limits proposed by the AHA. And sugar-sweetened drinks account for <a href="" target="_blank">nearly half</a> of these added sugars. As <em>Mother Jones</em> <a href="" target="_blank">has reported over the years</a>, these jolts of added sugar have been linked with obesity, diabetes, metabolic disease, and a whole host of other ailments.</p> <p>The World Health Organization turned heads last year when it <a href="" target="_blank">reduced its recommendation</a> about healthy added sugar intake from roughly 12 teaspoons to around 6 teaspoons a day (aka less than one can of Coke). The Dietary Guidelines might not go that far, but this year the committee will likely propose limits on added sugar for the first time: No more than 10 percent of your daily energy should come from added sugar, the committee suggests, which comes out to about 12 teaspoons a day for an adult with an average BMI.</p> <p><strong>Not sure how we feel about salt</strong><strong>: </strong>"Sodium is ubiquitous in the food supply," noted the Committee in <a href="" target="_blank">its December meeting notes</a>. The 2010 Guidelines recommended that adults consume less than 2,300 milligrams of sodium a day, a far cry from the 3,400 mg we inhale on average. The Guidelines also suggested that certain at-risk groups like people over age 51 and diabetics should eat less than 1,500 mg a day.</p> <p>But while <a href="" target="_blank">a 2013 report</a> by the Institute of Medicine stated that reducing sodium intake is important for heart health, it also pointed to recent research suggesting that "sodium intakes that are low may increase health risks&mdash;particularly in certain groups"&mdash;like people with diabetes or kidney disease. The report asserted that there's no evidence of benefits in reducing sodium intake to 1,500 mg for these subgroups or for the general population. While the Committee seems to want to warn people off sodium-laden diets for the 2015 guidelines, given these mixed findings about levels it seems unlikely that it&nbsp;will set a new defined limit.</p></body></html> Blue Marble Econundrums Food and Ag Health Regulatory Affairs Top Stories Mon, 16 Feb 2015 11:00:11 +0000 Maddie Oatman 270336 at Bad Man Wants to Ban Bag Bans <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p>Columbia, Mo., is <a href="" target="_blank">considering a ban</a> on plastic shopping bags. This is good. Plastic bags are <a href="" target="_blank">wasteful and bad for the environment and generally terrible</a>. They create tons of nasty litter on city streets and <a href="" target="_blank">can block up recycling facilities</a>. So there's really no reason why grocery stores and other retail outlets should hand out trillions of them for free. Tons of <a href="" target="_blank">local, regional,</a> and <a href="" target="_blank">national governments</a> around the world have already figured this out, and implemented bans.</p> <p>But Missouri state Representative Dan Shaul, a Republican from the suburbs of St. Louis, disagrees. That's why he wants to ban bag bans, with a bill going before committee in the state's legislature this week.</p> <p>From the <a href="" target="_blank">St. Louis </a><em><a href="" target="_blank">Riverfront Times</a></em>:</p> <blockquote> <p>Shaul, a sixteen-year member of the Missouri Grocers Association, is trying to stop bag bans outright. He says he doesn't want to burden shoppers with an additional fee at the grocery store.</p> <p>"If they choose to tax the bag, it's going to hurt the people who need that the most: the consumer," especially the poor, Shaul says. "My goal when I go to the grocery store with a $100 bill is to get $100 worth of groceries."</p> <p>But a ten-cents-per-bag fee for forgetting your reusable bag? "That adds up pretty quick."</p> </blockquote> <p>Here's the thing, though: Ban bags are actually really good for local economies, because they reduce costs for retailers and cleanup costs for governments. California, which became the first US state to ban bags last fall, previously <a href="" target="_blank">spent $25 million per year</a> picking them up and landfilling them.</p> <p>So instead of bag ban bans, a better bill would be a ban on bag ban bans.</p></body></html> Blue Marble Climate Change Climate Desk Science Mon, 09 Feb 2015 19:36:32 +0000 Tim McDonnell 269961 at Obama: Climate Change Is an "Urgent And Growing Threat" To National Security <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p>President Barack Obama listed climate change alongside international terrorism, weapons of mass destruction, and infectious disease in a new <a href="" target="_blank">national security strategy plan</a> released today. The plan called climate change "an urgent and growing threat to our national security" and also called for the United States to diversify its energy sources to insulate the country from disruptions to foreign fossil fuel markets.</p> <p>This isn't the first time the Obama administration has singled out climate as a major national security risk: A Pentagon <a href="" target="_blank">report</a> in October said global warming has become a short-term priority for strategic military planning. But the issue gets much more airtime in today's strategy than it did in the administration's first, issued <a href="" target="_blank">back in 2010</a>, where it merited just a few passing references. Overall, the document is in line with the <a href="" target="_blank">more aggressive climate message</a> that has emerged this year from the White House. You can read it below:</p> <div class="DV-container" id="DV-viewer-1657160-document-gw-01">&nbsp;</div> <script src="//"></script><script> DV.load("//", { width: 630, height: 800, sidebar: false, page: 18, container: "#DV-viewer-1657160-document-gw-01" }); </script><noscript> <a href="">Document Gw 01 (PDF)</a> <br><a href="">Document Gw 01 (Text)</a> </noscript></body></html> Blue Marble Climate Change Climate Desk Military Obama Fri, 06 Feb 2015 19:34:11 +0000 Tim McDonnell 269806 at We Have Some Really Good News About How America Uses Energy <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p>When you read headlines about how Congress is <a href="" target="_blank">rife with climate change deniers</a> and willing to <a href="" target="_blank">vote in favor of a massive oil pipeline</a> that could <a href="" target="_blank">increase greenhouse gas emissions</a>, it's easy to get discouraged about the direction the US is headed on global warming. But when you look at some of the hard numbers about how Americans are getting their energy, there's actually a lot to be excited about.</p> <p>This morning Bloomberg New Energy Finance released a <a href="" target="_blank">fat report</a> on the state of US energy, and it's chock-full of kickass facts and figures that reveal real, tangible progress on reversing the habits that cause climate change. Here are just a few of the most salient bits:</p> <p><strong>The US is getting way more efficient. </strong>It used to be that electricity demand rose and fell roughly in line with economic productivity. That's no longer the case: Thanks to massive gains in energy efficiency in everything from home appliances to factory lines, energy demand is now less tied to economic growth than ever before. In fact, since 2007, electricity demand hasn't grown <em>at all</em><em>, </em>the report finds. Zero. Another way to say that is that the US is becoming more "energy productive," meaning the US is using fewer units of energy for every unit of GDP. Energy productivity has increased 54 percent since 1990:</p> <div class="inline inline-center" style="display: table; width: 1%"><img alt="" class="image" src="/files/Screen-Shot-2015-02-04-at-10.43.39-AM.jpg"><div class="caption">BNEF</div> </div> <p>Since energy makes up about 83 percent of America's total carbon footprint, those gains in efficiency (along with big shakeups in where our energy comes from, which I'll get to shortly) have helped drive total carbon emissions down 9.2 percent from their 2007 all-time peak:</p> <div class="inline inline-center" style="display: table; width: 1%"><img alt="" class="image" src="/files/Screen-Shot-2015-02-04-at-11.23.39-AM.jpg"><div class="caption">BNEF</div> </div> <p><strong>Coal is getting the boot. </strong>Coal used to provide half or more of the country's electricity. Now, that number is down to 39 percent, thanks largely to increasing reliance on natural gas made plentiful and cheap by the fracking boom. Both production and consumption of natural gas were at all-time highs in 2014:</p> <div class="inline inline-center" style="display: table; width: 1%"><img alt="" class="image" src="/files/Screen-Shot-2015-02-04-at-10.45.18-AM.jpg"><div class="caption">BNEF</div> </div> <p><strong>Renewable energy is blowing up. </strong>Natural gas isn't the only big winner: Renewables are skyrocketing too. Solar and wind production have more than tripled since 2008. The share of all renewable energy sources combined (including large hydropower dams) in the US energy mix has nearly doubled since 2008, from 8 percent to 13 percent. This chart shows how much new capacity of each energy source was added in each year; the grey is natural gas and the light blue is renewables:</p> <div class="inline inline-center" style="display: table; width: 1%"><img alt="" class="image" src="/files/Screen-Shot-2015-02-04-at-10.46.31-AM.jpg"><div class="caption">BNEF</div> </div> <p>As we've reported before, <a href="" target="_blank">solar is going gangbusters</a>; the bars below show how much rooftop solar was added each year, and the red line represents the cumulative total:</p> <div class="inline inline-center" style="display: table; width: 1%"><img alt="" class="image" src="/files/Screen-Shot-2015-02-04-at-11.38.03-AM.jpg"><div class="caption">BNEF</div> </div> <p>Behind that trend is an ongoing freefall in the cost of solar panels. This chart shows how the more solar that gets installed, the cheaper each unit of it becomes, thanks to technology improvements and breakneck production at Chinese factories. The two lines are for different types of modules, but the important thing is that they're both headed downhill:</p> <div class="inline inline-center" style="display: table; width: 1%"><img alt="" class="image" src="/files/Screen-Shot-2015-02-04-at-10.57.36-AM.jpg"><div class="caption">BNEF</div> </div> <p><strong>Cars are cleaner, and we're using them less. </strong>Gasoline consumption is down 8.6 percent from 2005, which the report attributes to "increasing vehicle efficiency prompted by federal policy, increasing consumer preference for less thirsty vehicles, changing driving patterns (declining number of vehicles on the road, declining miles per vehicle), and increasing biofuel blending." The relative climate benefits of biofuels <a href="" target="_blank">are still being hotly debated</a>, but the rest of those trends are pretty objectively awesome. The trend for electric vehicles is less impressive. Although the number of public electric vehicle charging stations has exploded 470 percent since 2011, sales are pretty ho-hum. The report blames low oil prices:</p> <div class="inline inline-center" style="display: table; width: 1%"><img alt="" class="image" src="/files/Screen-Shot-2015-02-04-at-11.54.40-AM.jpg"><div class="caption">BNEF</div> </div></body></html> Blue Marble Charts Climate Change Climate Desk Energy Tech Infrastructure Wed, 04 Feb 2015 17:57:37 +0000 Tim McDonnell 269586 at EPA: Low Oil Prices Will Make Keystone XL A Climate Nightmare <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p>Earlier today the Environmental Protection Agency released a <a href="" target="_blank">letter</a> that one of its top officials sent yesterday to the State Department, weighing in on the debate over the Keystone XL pipeline. The letter is part of a last round of comments from federal agencies before the Obama administration makes a final decision about whether to approve the pipeline, and environmentalists had hoped that it would spell out the threat the project could pose to the climate.</p> <p>They weren't disappointed. The EPA letter argues that the recent drop in oil prices means that Keystone XL could come with a major carbon footprint. This is an argument environmentalists like Bill McKibben have been pushing for years. And it's a big deal&mdash;President Barack Obama has said that the pipeline will be approved only if it won't increase overall greenhouse gas emissions.</p> <p>Here's the logic: A pipeline is the cheapest way to move oil; trucks and trains are much more expensive. Canadian tar sands oil is especially expensive to produce. When the price of oil is high, it makes economic sense to export it with trucks and trains. This is the line of reasoning the State Dept. has used to argue that approving the pipeline won't contribute to climate change: The oil is going to get burned with or without Keystone XL, because producers will just send it out some other way. Republicans in Congress have cited that same State Dept. analysis as evidence that Keystone XL isn't the climate-killing monster environmentalists make it out to be.</p> <p>But when the price of oil is so low, that calculus gets turned upside down. According to State's own analysis, the economic rationale for using trucks and trains starts to erode once the price of oil dips much below $75 per barrel. Right now, oil is hovering around $50 a barrel. So if prices stay low and the if the pipeline isn't built, that oil might actually stay buried&mdash;where many climate scientists have said it <a href="" target="_blank">needs to stay</a> if we're to avoid disastrous levels of global warming.</p> <p>You can read the full EPA letter below. Here's the key line:</p> <blockquote> <p>"At sustained oil prices within this range, construction of the pipeline is projected to change the economics of oil sands development and result in increased oil sands production, and the accompanying greenhouse gas emissions, over what would otherwise occur."</p> </blockquote> <p>Some energy analysts disagree, arguing that oil prices would have to drop much further than current levels to have an impact on tar sands production. And even though <a href="" target="_blank">there's reason to think</a> oil could be cheap for a while, energy companies <a href="" target="_blank">don't tend to make big expensive decisions</a> about where and how to drill based on short-term market trends. So there's still room for debate on the EPA's take here.</p> <p>The EPA letter is likely to become a centerpiece of the pipeline debate as Congress continues to wrangle over the issue. (A bill to approve the pipeline passed the Senate last week, and next week the House is expected to take it up once again. President Obama has promised to veto the bill.) But the more important thing to watch is whether it changes any minds in the Obama administration, which is nearing a final decision on whether the pipeline will be built.</p> <div id="DV-viewer-1566915-20140032" class="DV-container"></div> <script src="//"></script><script> DV.load("//", { width: 630, height: 800, sidebar: false, container: "#DV-viewer-1566915-20140032" }); </script><noscript> <a href="">20140032 (PDF)</a> <br><a href="">20140032 (Text)</a> </noscript></body></html> Blue Marble Climate Change Climate Desk Energy Infrastructure Tue, 03 Feb 2015 22:28:06 +0000 Tim McDonnell 269546 at We Have Some Good News For You About the Koala That Was Burned in the Fire <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p>After a series of <a href="" target="_blank">devastating bushfires</a> ripped through Australia earlier this month, volunteers across the world quickly came to the rescue with custom-knitted mittens for the burned paws of koalas (<a href="" target="_blank">way <em>too</em> many volunteers, it turns out</a>). The poster koala that sparked the movement was Jeremy, whose heart-rending hospital room portrait quickly went viral.</p> <p>Good news! Jeremy is fully recovered and back in the wild. From the <a href="" target="_blank"><em>BBC</em></a>:</p> <blockquote> <p>He has since made a complete recovery, says Aaron Machado, who operates the clinic that treated the animal... "The only thing he has to do now is get used to not having any more room service," Mr Machado told the BBC.</p> </blockquote> <p>Here's to koalas everywhere!</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=4019491145001&amp;playerID=3680665367001&amp;playerKey=AQ~~,AAACKW9LH8k~,A7HfECo5t7CatyA-8fEJ4LzBn7uU7ewe&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=4019491145001&amp;playerID=3680665367001&amp;playerKey=AQ~~,AAACKW9LH8k~,A7HfECo5t7CatyA-8fEJ4LzBn7uU7ewe&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></body></html> Blue Marble Animals Climate Change Fri, 30 Jan 2015 22:09:21 +0000 Tim McDonnell 269381 at Attention, Sunday Shows: Here Are 5 Republicans Who Won't Lie to Your Viewers About Climate Change <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p>On Wednesday, I <a href="" target="_blank">wrote</a> about a new Media Matters for America <a href="" target="_blank">study</a> that shines a light on a big problem with how TV news shows cover climate change. Scientists overwhelmingly agree that humans are warming the planet, but Media Matters found that the highly influential Sunday morning talk shows often feature misleading talking points from global warming skeptics. Frequently, these segments turn into bizarre debates between those who accept science and those who reject it.</p> <p>On NBC's <em>Meet the Press</em>, for example, almost two-thirds of the climate coverage last year included "false balance," according to Media Matters. <em>Fox News Sunday</em> and ABC's <em>This Week</em> had similar problems:</p> <div class="inline inline-center" style="display: table; width: 1%"><img alt="mmfa_chart6" class="image" src="/files/mmfa_chart6_1.png"></div> <p>The Media Matters study drew the attention of Sen. Brian Schatz (D-Hawaii). In a press release, he slammed the news networks for misleading viewers "by framing the facts of climate change as a 'debate.'" He urged them "to stop creating a false debate about the reality of climate change and engage in the real debate about how we can solve it."</p> <p>This presents something of a dilemma for the Sunday shows. Interviewing elected officials from both sides of the aisle is a big part of the reason these programs exist in the first place; they can't host a debate about climate policy and invite only Democrats. At the same time, however, global warming denial is so ingrained on the right that it's becoming increasingly difficult to find Republicans who can talk about the issue without misinforming viewers. The Media Matters report cites a couple examples of this: Rep. Marsha Blackburn (R-Tenn.) <a href="" target="_blank">saying on <em>Meet the Press </em></a>that there's no scientific consensus on climate change, and North Carolina Gov. Pat McCrory (R) <a href="" target="_blank">saying on <em>This Week</em></a> that "the big debate is how much of it is manmade and how much it will just naturally happen as Earth evolves."</p> <p>Fortunately&mdash;thanks to Schatz&mdash;TV bookers now have a <a href=";session=1&amp;vote=00012" target="_blank">handy list of GOP senators</a> who acknowledge the scientific facts surrounding climate change and who, presumably, can participate in an intelligent discussion of what should actually be done about the problem. Last week, Schatz introduced legislation <a href="" target="_blank">declaring it the "sense of Congress" that climate change is real</a> and that human activity contributes significantly to it. Five Republicans voted in favor of Schatz's amendment: Lamar Alexander (Tenn.), Kelly Ayotte (N.H.), Susan Collins (Maine), Lindsey Graham (S.C.), and Mark Kirk (Ill.). The other 49 voted no.</p> <p>There's plenty of room for disagreement on policy matters, of course. Alexander and Graham, for example, <a href=";ContentRecord_id=43fa4416-e921-87b1-ab6b-f8a9a291e798" target="_blank">have called on</a> the Obama administration to withdraw its proposed greenhouse gas emissions rules, the centerpiece of the president's climate plan. But if the networks are looking for Republicans who can speak accurately about the science, at least now they know where to find them.</p> <p><em>(Disclosure: I used to work at Media Matters.)</em></p></body></html> Blue Marble Climate Change Climate Desk Media Science Top Stories Thu, 29 Jan 2015 22:48:20 +0000 Jeremy Schulman 269341 at The Senate Just Approved Keystone XL <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p>The Senate has been a very busy bunch of beavers over the last month. After just a week of being in session, they had already <a href="" target="_blank">taken more votes than they did in all of 2014</a>. It's all thanks to the Keystone XL pipeline, which has been the primary topic of floor debate for the last three weeks.</p> <p>Almost immediately after the new Congress got started, the House passed a bill to approve construction of the pipeline. As new Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (Ky.) had promised, the Senate then took up its own Keystone bill, which President Barack Obama promptly promised to veto. (The president has long maintained that he wants the pipeline to be approved&mdash;or not&mdash;through the normal State Department process, which is the usual protocol for cross-border infrastructure projects.) Democrats and Republicans alike have sought to load up the Keystone bill with a staggering number of amendments, ranging from an agreement that <a href="" target="_blank">climate change is "not a hoax"</a> to <a href="" target="_blank">removing the lesser prairie-chicken</a> from the endangered species list. As of this morning, <a href="" target="_blank">only five had passed</a>.</p> <p>Over the last few days, McConnell and Energy and Natural Resources Committee Chair Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) have urged their peers to wrap up and take a final vote on the bill, with leading Democrats and environmentalists responding that Republicans were trying to <a href="" target="_blank">"aggressively"</a> shut down debate.</p> <p>This afternoon it finally happened, and the Senate bill passed 62-36. <a href="" target="_blank">According to </a><em><a href="" target="_blank">Politico</a>,</em> House leaders have yet to decide whether to take a straight vote on the Senate bill or send it to a conference committee to resolve the differences between the two versions. Either way, the bill faces an assured veto once it reaches the Oval Office. And unless more Democrats change their tune soon, there is not enough support in the Congress to override the veto.</p> <p>What's next for the embattled pipeline? Earlier this month, the Nebraska State Supreme Court <a href="" target="_blank">ruled in favor of Keystone XL's proposed route</a>, a ruling the White House had said was the last piece of the puzzle needed before the Obama administration makes a final decision. So now, once again, the ball is back in the president's court.</p> <div class="inline inline-center" style="display: table; width: 1%">&nbsp; <div class="caption"> <div class="inline inline-center" style="display: table; width: 1%"><img alt="" class="image" src="/files/slack-imgs-1.com_.jpeg"><div class="caption"><strong>Via the State Department, the proposed route of the Keystone XL pipeline, shown in yellow. </strong></div> </div> </div> </div></body></html> Blue Marble Climate Change Climate Desk Energy Top Stories Infrastructure Thu, 29 Jan 2015 21:10:13 +0000 Tim McDonnell 269321 at This Chart Shows That Americans Are Way Out of Step With Scientists on Pretty Much Everything <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p>Here's one big reason why the US has been so slow to take aggressive action on climate change: Despite the wide consensus among scientists that it's real and caused by humans, the general public&mdash;not to mention a <a href="" target="_blank">disconcerting number</a> of prominent politicians&mdash;remains divided.</p> <p>It's not just climate change. On a range of pressing social issues, scientists and the public rarely see eye-to-eye. That's the result of a new Pew <a href="" target="_blank">poll</a> released today that compared views of a sample of 2,000 US adults to those of 3,700 scientists who are members of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, the group that publishes the journal <em>Science</em>.</p> <p>The biggest split was over the safety of genetically modified foods: 88 percent of scientists think GMOs are safe, compared to only 37 percent in the general public. Interestingly, college graduates were split 50-50. The gap between scientists and the public is smaller on the question of whether to mandate childhood vaccines. But it's still there. Eighty-six percent of scientists and 68 percent of all adults think vaccines should be required.</p> <p>The poll didn't attempt to explain the gaps between scientists and the general public. On some issues there are clearly factors beyond pure science, like ethics and politics, that influence opinions. For example, scientists show <em>more</em> support for nuclear power, but <em>less </em>support for fracking, than the public. As our friend Chris Mooney has reported many times, these outside factors <a href="" target="_blank">tend to creep into peoples' opinions</a> even on objective questions like whether humans have evolved.</p> <p>Lee Rainie, Pew's director of science research, added that trust in scientists can be a big factor. On GMOs, for example, 67 percent of the public believe scientists don't fully understand the health risks. And on issues like climate and evolution, the public believes there to be more disagreement within the scientific community than there actually is, he said.</p> <p>More interesting findings are below:</p> <div class="inline inline-center" style="display: table; width: 1%"><img alt="" class="image" src="/files/pew-poll-2.jpg"><div class="caption">Pew</div> </div></body></html> Blue Marble Charts Climate Change Climate Desk Food and Ag Science Top Stories Thu, 29 Jan 2015 19:08:58 +0000 Tim McDonnell 269286 at 6 Terrifying Facts About Measles <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p>The current outbreak of measles that began in California has <a href="" target="_blank">sickened</a> 86 people and landed <a href="" target="_blank">30 babies</a> in home isolation. The California Department of Health has issued an official <a href="" target="_blank">warning</a> that "any place where large numbers of people congregate and there are a number of international visitors, like airports, shopping malls and tourist attractions, you may be more likely to find measles, which should be considered if you are not vaccinated."</p> <p>Not everyone is so concerned. In a <a href=";id=116317855073374" target="_blank">Facebook post</a> on January 16, celebrity pediatrician Robert "Dr. Bob" Sears encouraged his followers not to "let anyone tell you you should live in fear of" measles. "Ask any Grandma or Grandpa (well, older ones anyway)," he wrote, "and they'll say 'Measles? So what? We all had it. It's like Chicken pox.'"</p> <p>Well, Dr. Bob is wrong&mdash;measles is serious business. Consider these facts:</p> <ol><li><strong>Measles is one of the most contagious illnesses known to man.</strong> According to the <a href="" target="_blank">Centers for Disease Control and Prevention</a> (CDC), it infects about 90 percent of people who come into contact with it. The virus can survive on surfaces or even in the air for up to two hours. That means that if an unvaccinated person happens to pass through a room where someone with measles was a few hours before, he or she has a very high chance of contracting the disease.&nbsp;<br> &nbsp;</li> <li><strong>Some people who get measles become seriously ill.</strong> Before the advent of the measles, mumps, and rubella (MMR) vaccine, between 3 and 4 million people contracted measles each year in the United States. Of those, 48,000 were hospitalized, 4,000 developed the life-threatening brain condition encephalitis, and 400 to 500 died.<br> &nbsp;</li> <li><strong>Almost everyone needs to be vaccinated for measles in order to protect the most vulnerable people.</strong> The epidemiological concept of "herd immunity" means that enough people in a given community are immunized so that people who can't get vaccinated&mdash;infants that are too young to receive vaccines, people who can't get vaccinated because their immune systems are not strong enough, and the small number of people for whom the vaccine doesn't work&mdash;are protected. The threshold for herd immunity varies by disease; for measles, it's <a href="" target="_blank">92 to 94 percent</a>.<br> &nbsp;</li> <li><strong>In some places in the United States, MMR vaccination rates among kindergartners aren't anywhere near the herd immunity threshold.</strong> In Marin County, California, only 80 percent of students are up to date on their vaccinations. In Nevada County, California, the figure is 73 percent. <em>New York</em> magazine <a href="" target="_blank">reported</a> last year that dozens of New York City private schools had immunization rates below 70 percent. (Californians can check rates at individual schools <a href="" target="_blank">here</a>.)<br> &nbsp;</li> <li><strong>Worldwide, measles is far from eradicated.</strong> According to the <a href="" target="_blank">CDC</a>, in 2013, more than 60 percent of children in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Ethiopia, India, Indonesia Nigeria, and Pakistan were not adequately vaccinated against measles. Seventy percent of measles deaths worldwide occurred in those countries.<br> &nbsp;</li> <li><strong>Measles could make a major comeback in the United States.</strong> It's happened in other developed nations: In the mid-1990s, UK public health officials considered measles eradicated in the country&mdash;but in 2008, because of low vaccination rates, measles once again hit <a href="" target="_blank">endemic status</a>. Between 2008 and 2011, France saw <a href="" target="_blank">more than 20,000 cases of measles</a>&mdash;after virtual elimination of the disease just a few years before.</li> </ol></body></html> Blue Marble Health Top Stories Wed, 28 Jan 2015 11:00:10 +0000 Kiera Butler 269046 at This Map Shows Why The Midwest Is Screwed <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p>The ongoing drought in California has been, among other things, a powerful lesson in how vulnerable America's agricultural sector is to climate change. Even if that drought <a href="" target="_blank">wasn't specifically caused by man-made global warming</a>, scientists have little doubt that droughts and heat waves are going to get more frequent and severe in important crop-growing regions. In California, the cost in 2014 was staggering: $2.2 billion in losses and added expenses, plus 17,000 lost jobs, <a href="" target="_blank">according to a UC-Davis study</a>.</p> <p>California is country's hub for fruits, veggies, and nuts. But what about the commodity grains grown in the Midwest, where the US produces over half its corn and soy? That's the subject of a <a href="" target="_blank">new report</a> by the climate research group headed by former New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg, former US Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson, and billionaire environmentalist Tom Steyer (who <a href="" target="_blank">recently shut down rumors</a> that he might run for Senate).</p> <p>The report is all about climate impacts expected in the Midwest, and the big takeaway is that future generations have lots of very sweaty summers in store. One example: "The average Chicago resident is expected to experience more days over 95 degrees F by the century's end than the average Texan does today." The report also predicts that electricity prices will increase, with potential ramifications for the region's manufacturing sector, and that beloved winter sports&mdash;<a href="" target="_blank">ice fishing, anyone?</a>&mdash;will become harder to do.</p> <p>But some of the most troublesome findings are about agriculture. Some places will fare better than others; northern Minnesota, for example, could very well find itself benefiting from global warming. But overall, the report says, extreme heat, scarcer water resources, and weed and insect invasions will drive down corn and soybean yields by 11 to 69 percent by the century's end. Note that these predictions assume no "significant adaptation," so there's an opportunity to soften the blow with <a href="" target="_blank">solutions</a> like better water management, switching to more heat-tolerant crops like sorghum, or the combination of genetic engineering and data technology now <a href="" target="_blank">being pursued by Monsanto</a>.</p> <p>Here's a map from the report showing which states' farmers could benefit from climate change&mdash;and which ones will lose big time:</p> <div class="inline inline-center" style="display: table; width: 1%"><img alt="" class="image" src="/files/crop-map-630.jpg"><div class="caption">Risky Business</div> </div></body></html> Blue Marble Maps Climate Change Climate Desk Food and Ag Science Tue, 27 Jan 2015 21:44:23 +0000 Tim McDonnell 268986 at Obama's Trip to India Shortened His Life by 6 Hours <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p>Over the weekend President Barack Obama was in India for talks with Prime Minister Narendra Modi on nuclear power, trade, climate change, <a href="" target="_blank">and other topics</a>. The climate piece was, if not necessarily a letdown, certainly less exciting than Obama's <a href="" target="_blank">wide-reaching deal with China</a> in November. Crucially, the China deal included specific carbon emissions reduction targets; those were left out in India over Modi's (<a href="" target="_blank">arguably justifiable</a>) insistence that the country be able to aggressively expand its electricity infrastructure to fight poverty.</p> <p>Instead, India committed to expand its solar power capacity by 33-fold within seven years, and to work closely with the United States in advance of major UN climate talks in Paris in December. (India's participation will be vital for the summit to produce a meaningful international agreement.)</p> <p>As <em>Bloomberg</em>'s <span class="author" itemprop="author">Natalie Obiko Pearson <a href="" target="_blank">noted</a>, </span>Obama got a first-hand taste in the trip of how important it is for India to fuel its growth with clean energy sources. India is already the world's third-largest greenhouse gas emitter behind China and the US, and air pollution in many of its cities far exceeds even the <a href="" target="_blank">infamous levels in Beijing and other Chinese megalopolises</a>.</p> <p>In fact, Delhi&mdash;the capital city where Obama's meetings took place&mdash;has the world's highest concentration of PM 2.5, <a href="" target="_blank">according to the UN</a>. These tiny airborne particulates can increase the risk of heart disease and a host of really awful respiratory ailments. The PM 2.5 levels in Delhi are so insanely bad that breathing the air for only a few hours can have irreversible health impacts&hellip;even on the leader of the free world.</p> <p>From <em><a href="" target="_blank">Bloomberg</a>:</em></p> <blockquote> <p>During Obama's three-day visit, PM2.5 levels in Delhi have averaged between 76 to 84 micrograms per cubic meter, according to <a href="" rel="external" title="Open Web Site">data</a> collected by India's Ministry of Earth Sciences&hellip;Those levels translate roughly into an estimated loss of 2 hours a day in <a href="">life expectancy</a>, said <a href="" rel="external" title="Open Web Site">David Spiegelhalter</a>, a statistician at the University of Cambridge, who specializes in quantifying risk in a way that is understandable to the public.</p> </blockquote> <p>Obama was there for three days, so that's six hours off his life. That is profoundly terrifying. It also underscores how, for developing countries, the need to stem pollution from power plants is about much more than solving the long-term problem of global warming. It's about addressing an urgent pubic health crisis.</p> <p><em>This post has been updated.</em></p></body></html> Blue Marble Climate Change Climate Desk Health International Obama Tue, 27 Jan 2015 17:08:54 +0000 Tim McDonnell 268931 at This Is Not a Drill: 29 Million Brace for Massive, Historic Snowstorm <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p><strong>Update: Monday, January 26, 6:35 p.m. EST: </strong>This was the scene outside our office this afternoon. Yikes!</p> <p><iframe allowfullscreen="" frameborder="0" height="354" src="//" width="630"></iframe></p> <p><strong>Update: Monday, January 26, 6:00 p.m. EST: </strong>From <a href="" target="_blank">our friends at Climate Central</a>, here's a little background on the weather forces behind the storm and how they relate to man-made climate change:</p> <blockquote> <p>The low pressure area at the heart of the storm is tracking along the East Coast in a way that lets it exploit the contrast between the cold air over land and the warmth of the oceans, which are running more than 2&deg;F warmer than normal along much of the coast, said <a href="">Kevin Trenberth</a>, a climatologist at the National Center for Atmospheric Research in Boulder, Colo. The warmer ocean waters mean more moisture in the atmosphere for the storm to suck up; the cold air over the continent ensures that moisture falls as snow.</p> </blockquote> <p><strong>Update: Monday, January 26, 5:00 p.m. EST:</strong> New York Governor Andrew Cuomo has decided to put a "hard stop" on the region's public transit later tonight in preparation for worse snow conditions starting in the early hours of Tuesday:</p> <blockquote class="twitter-tweet" lang="en"> <p>As per <a href="">@NYGovCuomo</a>, all <a href="">@NYCTSubway</a>, <a href="">@NYCTBus</a>, <a href="">@LIRR</a> and <a href="">@MetroNorth</a> operations will be fully closed by 11pm.</p> &mdash; MTA (@MTA) <a href="">January 26, 2015</a></blockquote> <script async src="//" charset="utf-8"></script><p>New Yorkers were piling into the subway ahead of the evening rush hour:</p> <div class="inline inline-center" style="display: table; width: 1%"><img alt="" class="image" src="/files/bliz-6.jpg"><div class="caption"><strong>Heading into the Union Square subway entrance Monday afternoon. </strong>Tim McDonnell</div> </div> <p><strong>Update: Monday, January 26, 2:45 p.m. EST:</strong> Even just after a couple hours of snow dumped by the strengthening blizzard, New York City's landscape is white-washed for the first time this season:</p> <div class="inline inline-center" style="display: table; width: 1%"><img alt="" class="image" src="/files/bliz-1.jpg"><div class="caption"><strong>NYC's heroic fleet of food delivery cyclists soldiered on as snow came down in Manhattan. </strong>Tim McDonnell</div> </div> <div class="inline inline-center" style="display: table; width: 1%"><img alt="" class="image" src="/files/bliz4.jpg"><div class="caption"><strong>Almost as soon as it started, the snow was coming down in sheets. </strong>Tim McDonnell</div> </div> <div class="inline inline-center" style="display: table; width: 1%"><img alt="" class="image" src="/files/bliz-5.jpg"><div class="caption"><strong>In Midtown, so begins the long battle to keep sidewalks clear of snow and ice. </strong>Tim McDonnell</div> </div> <div class="inline inline-center" style="display: table; width: 1%"><img alt="" class="image" src="/files/bliz-3.jpg"><div class="caption"><strong>Stay warm, little guy! </strong>Tim McDonnell</div> </div> <div class="inline inline-center" style="display: table; width: 1%"><img alt="" class="image" src="/files/bliz-2.jpg"><div class="caption"><strong>Central Park quickly turned into a winter wonderland. </strong>Tim McDonnell</div> </div> <p><strong>Update: Monday, January 26, 2:15 p.m. EST:</strong> As the blizzard begins to hit New York City, my colleague James West ventured out to capture some Brooklyn street scenes, in super-slow motion (flick the player to HD for some fun snow-falling prettiness):</p> <p><iframe allowfullscreen="" frameborder="0" height="354" src="//" width="630"></iframe></p> <p>After a few months of mild weather, today and tomorrow the East Coast is in for one hell of a snowstorm. <a href="" target="_blank">Twenty-nine million people</a> from New Jersey to Maine are under a blizzard alert. Here's the latest snow forecast for the Boston region from the National Weather Service:</p> <blockquote class="twitter-tweet" lang="en"> <p>Looks like <a href="">@NWSBoston</a> is all in. 28" for Boston (verbatim current fcst) would be a new all-time record. <a href=""></a></p> &mdash; Eric Holthaus (@EricHolthaus) <a href="">January 26, 2015</a></blockquote> <script async src="//" charset="utf-8"></script><p>And New York:</p> <blockquote class="twitter-tweet" lang="en"> <p>Here is our latest storm total snow range forecast graphic. <a href=""></a></p> &mdash; NWS New York NY (@NWSNewYorkNY) <a href="">January 26, 2015</a></blockquote> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><script async src="//" charset="utf-8"></script>The range shown for New York here&mdash;up to two feet dumped on the city by Wednesday&mdash;is at least down from yesterday's estimates, when, <a href="" target="_blank">as our friend Eric Holhaus at <em>Slate </em>reported</a>, meteorologists were warning that it could be the largest blizzard in the city's history. Still, New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio <a href="" target="_blank">told residents</a> "to prepare for something worse than we have seen before." The worst of the worst is expected starting Monday afternoon and through Tuesday.</p> <p>Stay tuned here for more updates, as well as images from inside the storm.&nbsp;</p></body></html> Blue Marble Photo Essays Climate Change Climate Desk Science Top Stories Mon, 26 Jan 2015 16:10:17 +0000 Tim McDonnell 268801 at One Perfect Tweet Sums Up Why Climate Denial in Congress Is So Dangerous <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p>Here's the good news: Yesterday the Senate <a href="" target="_blank">voted overwhelmingly</a> in favor of an amendment to the Keystone XL bill that says "climate change is real and not a hoax." Good work, ladies and gentlemen! Glad we got that on the record, <a href="" target="_blank">only 25 years</a> after scientists agreed on it.</p> <p>Here's the bad news: Turns out the vote was just an excuse for James Inhofe (Okla.) to say, as he has many times before: Sure, climate change is real. The climate changes all the time. But humans aren't the cause.</p> <p>His evidence for this dismissal of the mainstream scientific consensus? <a href="" target="_blank">The bible</a>.</p> <p>Oy vey.</p> <p>Now here's the really bad news: This same gentleman from Oklahoma recently became the chairman of the very Senate committee that oversees environmental policy. And two of his climate change-denying peers <a href="" target="_blank">will chair other subcommittees</a> that oversee vital climate science.</p> <p>In case it isn't self-evident why these facts are so terrible, we have our lovely readers to sum it up:</p> <blockquote class="twitter-tweet" lang="en"> <p><a href="">@MotherJones</a> How can United States possibly compete in the scientific community when we have throwbacks like this running major committees</p> &mdash; Sharon Dennis (@sddphoto) <a href="">January 22, 2015</a></blockquote> <script async src="//" charset="utf-8"></script><p>Thanks, <a href="" target="_blank">Sharon Dennis</a>!</p></body></html> Blue Marble Climate Change Climate Desk Congress Thu, 22 Jan 2015 21:13:16 +0000 Tim McDonnell 268676 at Are You at Risk for a Heart Attack? The Answer May Lie in Your Twitter Stream <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p>Of the many illnesses that plague Americans, heart disease is the deadliest&mdash;and one of the toughest to predict. Epidemiologists have long used surveys and clinical data to tease out genetic factors from lifestyle risks such as diet, smoking, and stress, with little success. But a new study shows that there might be a better tool to assess heart disease: Twitter.</p> <p>A <a href="" target="_blank">study</a> published in the peer-reviewed journal <em>Psychological Science</em> analyzed tweets and health data from 1,300 counties across the United States. The researchers found that negative tweets&mdash;those expressing fatigue, hostility, and stress&mdash;were associated with elevated risk of coronary heart disease (the medical term for clogged arteries) in the counties where the writers of those tweets lived. High volumes of tweets expressing optimism, excitement, ambition, and activity, meanwhile, correlated with lower than average rates of heart disease.</p> <p>Here are some word clouds with examples of language that predicted higher and lower levels of disease:</p> <div class="inline inline-center" style="display: table; width: 1%"><img alt="" class="image" src="/files/small%20topics%20-%20redone%20copy_0.png"><div class="caption">Psychological Science</div> </div> <p>What's more, the researchers found that the language used in tweets correlates much more closely with heart disease rates than traditional predictive factors such as your income and education level, your weight, and even whether you are a smoker:</p> <div class="inline inline-center" style="display: table; width: 1%"><img alt="" class="image" src="/files/bar-plot-600.gif"><div class="caption">Psychological Science</div> </div> <p>Lead author Johannes Eichstaedt, a psychological scientist at University of Pennsylvania, described Twitter as "the perfect tool for figuring out something like heart disease." Researchers have long suspected connections between emotional states and heart disease risk. And while it's not surprising that people with high levels of stress and anger would be at higher risk than their mellower, happier peers, researchers have traditionally relied on surveys to evaluate people's psychological well being. The problem is that survey-based studies can take years, and people aren't always honest about their feelings. Which makes Twitter a researcher's treasure trove. "Twitter is where people talk about themselves, where they express their emotions candidly," Eichstaedt says.</p> <p>Here's a map showing coronary heart disease deaths by county, using data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention:</p> <div class="inline inline-center" style="display: table; width: 1%"><img alt="" class="image" src="/files/cdc%20map%20600.jpg"><div class="caption">Psychological Science, CDC</div> </div> <div class="inline inline-center" style="display: table; width: 1%"><img alt="" class="image" src="/files/key.jpg"></div> <p>Now compare it with this map, which predicts rates of heart disease based on tweet language:</p> <div class="inline inline-center" style="display: table; width: 1%"><img alt="" class="image" src="/files/twitter-map-600.gif"><div class="caption">Psychological Science, Twitter</div> </div> <p>Another bonus of using Twitter as an epidemiological tool: It's much easier and cheaper than going door to door or calling people to conduct surveys. "If I wanted to repeat this analysis I could do it in an afternoon," says Eichstaedt. "With surveys, that would take a year."</p></body></html> Blue Marble Charts Maps Health Thu, 22 Jan 2015 11:00:10 +0000 Kiera Butler 268586 at No, You Shouldn't Let Fears of a Scary Nervous System Disease Stop You From Getting a Flu Shot <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p>Despite <a href="" target="_blank">abundant evidence</a> that flu vaccines are safe and effective, only about a third of Americans get the shots each season. Public health experts believe that one reason for the low immunization rates is misinformation about side effects of the vaccine. One is the belief that the vaccine can actually give you the flu (<a href="" target="_blank">false</a>); another is that it can cause autism in children (also false, as we've <a href="" target="_blank">said</a> <a href="" target="_blank">many</a> <a href="" target="_blank">times</a>).</p> <p>Add that to the worry that it will cause a rare but serious nervous-system disorder called <a href="" target="_blank">Guillain&ndash;Barr&eacute; syndrome </a>(GBS), an autoimmune disease in which the immune system attacks the nervous system, resulting in muscle weakness, or even temporary paralysis. This fear is not completely unfounded&mdash;several studies, including a <a href="" target="_blank">recent one</a> by Italian researchers about the 2010-2011 vaccine&mdash;have found that getting a flu shot can indeed very slightly elevate one's risk of contracting the disease, by about one additional case per million people.</p> <p>But here's where things get complicated: While it's true that the flu vaccine can raise your GBS risk, so can the flu itself. So which is more likely to lead to GBS: Getting the vaccine or getting the flu?</p> <p>That's the question that Steven Hawken and Kumanan Wilson, epidemiologists from The Ottawa Hospital, set out to answer. The researchers developed a calculator that took into account baseline GBS risk (overall, it's about 10 in a million, though it varies with age and sex&mdash;GBS affects more men than women and more elderly people than young adults and children), vaccine effectiveness, and overall incidence of flu. Their <a href="" target="_blank">findings</a>: For most people, in a flu season where the flu incidence is greater than 5 percent and the vaccine is more than 60 percent effective, says Wilson, "your risk of GBS actually goes down when you get the vaccine because it prevents the flu."</p> <p>That's good news in most years, when the flu vaccine is well over 60 percent effective. Here's the problem: This year's flu vaccine is only about 23 percent effective. Still, according to Wilson, while this year's total flu incidence isn't yet known, it appears to be greater than that of an average year&mdash;much higher than 5 percent. That means that even with the reduced effectiveness of the vaccine, the overall GBS risk is likely still greater for people who contract the flu than for those who get immunized, says Wilson.</p> <p>What's more, he adds, it's important to keep in mind that the risk of serious complications from the flu outweighs that of acquiring GBS. Last year, <a href="" target="_blank">according</a> to the CDC, 9,635 people were hospitalized with the flu in the United States. According to the <a href="" target="_blank">CDC</a> there are between 3,000-6,000 cases of GBS annually (though no hospitalization data is available). Most of those cases aren't caused by flu vaccines or the flu itself; the most common cause of GBS is infection with the bacterium <em>Campylobacter</em> <em>jejeuni, </em>usually the result of eating contaminated food.</p> <p>The takeaway: The GBS risk from the flu itself is most likely greater than that of the vaccine. And while GBS can be a scary disease, it's much less common than scary complications FROM the flu.</p></body></html> Blue Marble Health Top Stories Mon, 19 Jan 2015 11:00:08 +0000 Kiera Butler 268391 at Pope Francis: Climate Change Is Real and Humans Are Causing It <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p>Pope Francis made headlines Thursday when he told reporters that he believes climate change is largely caused by humans. "I don't know if it [human activity] is the only cause, but mostly, in great part, it is man who has slapped nature in the face," said Francis, <a href=";ir=Green" target="_blank">according to the Associated Press</a>. "We have in a sense taken over nature."</p> <p>But how does the pope <em>know </em>that humans are responsible for most of the <a href="" target="_blank">unprecedented warming</a> that has occurred in recent years? How can he be sure it wasn't caused by <a href="" target="_blank">solar cycles</a>? Or <a href="" target="_blank">volcanoes</a>? Or "<a href="" target="_blank">global wobbling</a>"? Here's a hint: The AP mentions that some of Francis' top aides have recently noted "that there is clear-cut scientific evidence that climate change is driven by human activity."</p> <p>That's right. Unlike <a href="" target="_blank">much of the US Congress</a>, the pope seems seems to be relying on science to inform his opinions about climate change. And indeed, his remarks Thursday echoed the scientific consensus on the issue. The UN's Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, for instance, <a href="" target="_blank">recently declared</a> it "extremely likely"&mdash;that is, at least 95 percent certain&mdash;that "human influence has been the dominant cause of the observed warming since the mid-20th century."</p> <p>Still, all the science in the world won't help much if we don't actually do something to reign in the greenhouse gas emissions that are causing the problem. And the pope is pushing for action. According to the AP, Francis criticized world leaders for failing to accomplish enough at a <a href="" target="_blank">recent climate conference</a> in Lima, Peru, and he called for them to be "more courageous" when they reconvene in Paris later this year.</p></body></html> Blue Marble Climate Change Climate Desk Religion Science Thu, 15 Jan 2015 22:55:48 +0000 Jeremy Schulman 268326 at McDonald's Just Recalled 1 Million Chicken McNuggets for a Super-Gross Reason <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p><em><strong>Update 12/15/15:</strong> Cargill <a href="" target="_blank">announced</a> that "they are confident the blue, plastic foreign material recently reported in one McDonalds Chicken Nugget in Japan did not originate from Cargill&rsquo;s production facilities." The source of the plastic is unknown.</em></p> <p>McDonald's Japan is having a rough start to 2015. Last week, the company apologized after a customer found plastic fragments in an order of Chicken McNuggets, which were thought to have been produced at a Cargill factory in Thailand. McDonald's pulled out nearly <a href="" target="_blank">1 million McNuggets</a> from the factory in one day. The same week, a customer in Misawa found a piece of <a href=";id=131053289&amp;size=huge&amp;image_format=jpg&amp;method=download&amp;;racksite_id=ny&amp;chosen_subscription=1&amp;license=standard&amp;src=dt_last_search-4" target="_blank">vinyl</a> in an order of McNuggets.</p> <p>In a statement about the plastic contamination, company spokesman Takashi Hasegasa said, "We deeply apologize for the trouble we have caused our customers and we are taking quick measures to analyze the cause of the contamination."</p> <p>Plastic and vinyl are, sadly, not the only gross items that customers have found in their McDonald's meals over the past year. In August, the company received a complaint from a customer in Osaka who had found the shard of a human tooth in an order of french fries. It was unclear at press time if the customer was in fact "<a href="" target="_blank">lovin' it.</a>"</p> <p>In July, McDonald's shut down its poultry supplier in China, Shanghai Husi Food Co, after allegations that the factory had deliberately mixed fresh chicken with expired produce. The meat had then allegedly been shipped to McDonald's in Japan and Starbucks and Burger King in China.</p> <p>The summer food scares led McDonald's Japan sales to drop more than 10 percent every month compared to the previous year, according to <a href="" target="_blank">CNN</a>. This fiscal year, the golden arches are bracing themselves for the their first net loss in Japan in 11 years.</p> <p>In an effort to bounce back, McDonald's Japan launched a sales campaign with discounts, giveaways, and new nuggets made from <a href="" target="_blank">tofu</a>.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p></body></html> Blue Marble Econundrums Food and Ag Health Thu, 15 Jan 2015 19:31:01 +0000 Julia Lurie 268286 at