Archive for July, 2012

One of the most prominent climate change deniers reversed course this weekend (Boston Herald), and the research behind his views is stronger than the research by the UN (New York Times), according to some scientists. This summer’s weather, which includes droughts, tornadoes and extreme heat waves, has led some to think there could be appetite for political action against global warming (National Journal). Meanwhile, a new study shows how carbon is absorbed by oceans (Planet Save).

The drought in the Midwest continues despite some recent rain (Des Moines Register). While a new study officially links the U.S. drought to climate change (Voice of America).

The latest bad news on the environment is Greenland’s massive ice loss. (PBS) All the recent activity has led some to find more bad outcomes from climate change including: higher costs for municipalities and state gov’ts (Reuters); medications becoming spoiled (USA Today); songbirds in the area (NY Times); and poor air quality for the London Olympics (ESPN).

The case for action against climate change, the consequences of our current carbon-guzzling pace – and the starring villain (oil companies) – has never been clearer thanks to renowned climate change author Bill McKibben’s piece in the Aug. 2 issue of Rolling Stone.

It is worth reading start to finish, but the beauty of it is that it can boil things down to a few facts:

- The international community has long-since agreed that a 2-degree Celsius increase in temperatures is the mark we need to avoid. We’re already at 0.8-degree increase, and based upon the carbon we’ve already released in the air (and the cumulative warning effect), we’ve basically committed to another 0.8 degree hike, leaving the world 0.4 degrees away from catastrophe. All of this comes with a caveat that 2.0 degrees is conservative – most African countries believe a 1-degree hike would blow them off the map. So, when we talk about being at the tipping point, we’re really there – and likely past it. At current carbon consumption trends, we’d actually blow right past the 2.0 degree hike.

“The new data provide further evidence that the door to a two-degree trajectory is about to close,” said Fatih Birol, the IEA’s chief economist. In fact, he continued, “When I look at this data, the trend is perfectly in line with a temperature increase of about six degrees.” That’s almost 11 degrees Fahrenheit, which would create a planet straight out of science fiction.

- Scientists agree that the world can handle a total of 565 gigatons of carbon. Currently, energy companies – such as oil, coal, natural gas, shale, etc- have found what amounts to 2,795 gigatons ($27 trillion worth) of carbon in reserve. And they’re planning to use it, which will completely destroy the planet. And this doesn’t even take into account he possibility of finding more oil or coal reserves, which they invest billions in.

Given this hard math, we need to view the fossil-fuel industry in a new light. It has become a rogue industry, reckless like no other force on Earth. It is Public Enemy Number One to the survival of our planetary civilization. “Lots of companies do rotten things in the course of their business – pay terrible wages, make people work in sweatshops – and we pressure them to change those practices,” says veteran anti-corporate leader Naomi Klein, who is at work on a book about the climate crisis. “But these numbers make clear that with the fossil-fuel industry, wrecking the planet is their business model. It’s what they do.”

That’s the ballgame, folks. 565 gigatons of carbon gets us to the perilous 2-degree hike. We can’t even use all of the oil, coal we have in reserve – the only way to stop that from happening is to get to the oil companies either through a message from the masses (pulling out all investors) or politically. And the idea of political pressure on big oil is laughable.

Once, in recent corporate history, anger forced an industry to make basic changes. That was the campaign in the 1980s demanding divestment from companies doing business in South Africa. It rose first on college campuses and then spread to municipal and state governments; 155 campuses eventually divested, and by the end of the decade, more than 80 cities, 25 states and 19 counties had taken some form of binding economic action against companies connected to the apartheid regime.

Will a push for divestment from major oil companies work? It’s the only shot we have.


Shell prepares to drill in the Arctic (Washington Post).

A large new water source is found in Namibia (BBC).

More offshore activity in Alaska draws a Coast Guard presence (NY Times).

Nestle’s head blames biofuels for high food prices (BBC).

Chevron signs an oil exploration deal in Iraqi Kurdistan (NY Times).

California will vote in November on GMO food labeling (LA Times).


The U.S. faces its most widespread drought since the 50s (LA Times).

North Dakota’s oil boom has its downsides (Washington Post).

The Bronx River cleanup has had some success (NY Times).

A river restoration deal is held up in Congress (NY Times).

State pressure has influenced the Keystone pipeline (Washington Post).

The “Climategate” inquiry is over (BBC).

An iceberg breaks off from Greenland (BBC).

All across the country this summer, people have been running to grab bottled water as they try to stay hydrated in the heat. But why bother with bottled water when the stuff in tap is just as good. I recently received a letter describing the water quality in Boston – and the results make a strong case to tap into tap water.

With all of the Boston water coming from the Quabbin and Wachusett reservoirs, the water is tested at every stop along the way, including the water-treatment plant in Marlboro. A number of compounds are tested for, including Barium, Nitrate and Perchlorate. None of the levels were close to alarming. The only level within 15% of the danger zone level was Fluoride, which tested at 25% (1.02 ppm) of the highest level allowed (4 ppm).

As for the bacteria tests in community pipes, one nearby community – Winthrop – violated the EPA’s limit of 5% positive samples in a month. Boston checked in with 0.7% positive samples. But as the letter points out: “Drinking water, including bottled water, must reasonably be expected to contain at least some small amounts of some contaminants. The presence of contaminants does not necessarily indicate that water poses a health risk.”

As for lead in the water, Boston has been under the levels allowed since 2004 and has had its lowest levels for the past two years. But, the EPA warns: “Never use hot water from the faucet for cooking or drinking.”

The final nail in the coffin comes in the form of cost. Tap water, which must live up to more intensive standards than bottled water, costs less than 1 cent per gallon delivered straight to home. Bottled water costs from $1 to $8 per gallon.

So think right – think tap – to stay cool this summer.


After the West Virginia mine explosion, justice and corrective measures are nowhere to be found (Washington Post).

Poland chases energy independence with hydrofracking (LA Times).

More Americans believe that temperatures are rising and the climate is unstable, a poll finds (Washington Post).

Tearing down a dam helps bring fish back (LA Times).

Chemical plants are growing in Texas (NY Times).

A Texas oil boom has some negative side effects (NY Times).

Apple reverses course and rejoins the EPEAT registry (BBC).

Lemurs are in danger of extinction (BBC).


San Francisco’s government won’t be buying Macs anymore (BBC).

Mining and astronomy collide in Arizona (LA Times).

Montana Democrats champion the Keystone pipeline (Washington Post).

Nationwide Insurance won’t cover hydrofracking-related damage (Washington Post).

E15 tries to catch on in Kansas (NY Times).

Going nuclear-free is tough for some cities (NY Times).

With temperatures reaching 105 degrees in at least one baseball game earlier this month , it’s worth revisiting an earlier topic brought up by maligned baseball analyst Tim McCarver. The Fox analyst mentioned earlier this year that he believes global warming has led to more home runs. Is he right? Well, maybe in a roundabout way.
McCarver technically pitched the theory that climate change is making the air thinner and allowing baseballs to travel farther – thus more home runs. Now, this theory has been debunked by climate change experts who looked into the actual statistics.
“If anything, anthropogenic carbon emissions and global warming should make the atmosphere slightly heavier, because we’re taking carbon that was trapped in the solid earth and releasing to the atmosphere (in the form of CO2), and a warmer atmosphere will hold more water vapor. Both CO2 and water vapor contribute (slightly) to the mass of the atmosphere,” Mann told Peter Dykstra of
But rising temperatures do have an effect on the number of runs being scored. As this article points out, baseballs do travel farther in warm, humid air – that’s  not exactly a newsflash.
The graph I’ve displayed at the top of this post shows how home run rates (number of home runs per team per game) have closely tracked the long-term changes in global temperature. They went up until the 1950s, leveled off through the 70s, and then ramped back up before showing a pause over the last decade or so. There are minor differences with the temperature curve but the similarities are eerie.

But what’s lost in all this is the very human element of how draining pitching rather than just being a position player in extreme heat can be. If you’re a pitcher, that’s about 100 pitches – or 100 time where you completely exert yourself. A position player has nowhere near as many times exerting himself. He makes about 16 swings a games and a few defensive chances in the field. It’s about a 5:1 ratio. And so, the tired pitcher is far more likely to give up more hits and home runs. It’s a normal physical toll.


A poll finds that global warming is no longer Americans’ top environmental concern (Washington Post).

Big Food is dominating the organic food market (NY Times).

A report urges England not to sell its public forests (BBC).

Whale conservation won’t go before the UN (BBC).

The Inuit don’t like Canadian polar bear protections (LA Times).

The Keystone XL pipeline will have a big impact on trade relations with Canada (Washington Post).