Archive for August, 2013

With news that the U.S. is considering imminent missile strikes in Syria, and Iran is considering strikes in Israel, the targets, long-term goals and casualties of war are all being considered. A less important, but oft-overlooked aspect of war can be its effect on the environment.

Some articles last year looked at the environmental cost of war. The costs were broken down as: Disruption to water, soil and forests; use of greenhouse gases in moving tanks and bombers into the battlefield; ability of warlords to use the chaos as a time to gain power and delve deeper into deforestation, dust kicked up from vehicles in the desert (this happened specifically in Kuwait).

A lot of the environmentally bad things have been banned internationally, such as destroying forests with Agent Orange. But there’s one detail that sticks out in relation to a possible U.S. strike on Syria:

One need only observe peacetime accidents to see what terror a bomb could unleash if dropped on a modern chemical factory. At the Union Carbide plant in Bhopal, India, in 1984, water infiltrated into a tank holding methyl isocyanate. The mixture caused an explosion that contaminated the surrounding area, killing thousands. Attacks on chemical plants are entirely possible. President Clinton ordered the bombing of a Sudanese factory in 1998 precisely because he thought it was stocked with dangerous chemicals.

The U.S. is considering striking Syria because of the use of chemical weapons, so it’s not a big stretch to think that one of the targets could be a chemical factory. Based upon this article, the environmental effect of that decision needs to be considered much in the same vein as you’d consider the other strategic fallout from the strike itself.


Al Gore is optimistic about climate change progress (Washington Post).

A big fire burns near Yosemite (BBC).

Erosion threatens Florida’s beaches (NY Times).

Increased freight rail traffic runs up against the Northwest’s green image (NY Times).

The leak at Fukushima may be worse than acknowledged (BBC).

An air conditioning refrigerant dispute threatens Mercedes sales in France (NY Times).


Ecuador approves drilling in the Amazon (BBC).

European forests are reaching a carbon saturation point (BBC).

Green power’s intermittent nature is a challenge (NY Times).

The army tests trash-to-energy (NY Times).

Gas mileage labeling may get some changes (NY Times).

Climate change is affecting Japanese apples (LA Times). It’s also making redwoods and giant sequoias grow faster (LA Times).

With the Senate unlocking its filibuster on EPA administrator Gina McCarthy in mid-July, she’s been on a bit of a barnstorming tour of colleges across the country. Her message at Colorado today was the same as at Harvard last month. And it’s simple: Fixing climate change can be good for the economy.

“EPA continues to work with states and other key stakeholders to help ensure that natural gas extraction does not come at the expense of public health and the environment,” she said.

More broadly, McCarthy used her speech to promoteObama’s second-term climate agenda that hands a big role to the EPA, which is crafting carbon emissions rules for power plants.

“I want you to talk to your friends and your relatives in other places and tell them that working on the issues of climate are not scary,” she said in a clip the Boulder Daily Camera posted online.

The news is welcome for environmentalists, who have believed that if the U.S. invested $130 billion a year into climate change, it could fix the problem with clean energy. It invested between $50 and $80 billion in 2009, but now it’s closer to $20 billion. Pitching the fix for climate change as an economic plus is not new, but it is the way to go. Not only can the solutions generate growth, but the downside is spending billions more to recover from more-frequent storms such as Hurricane Sandy. It’s an economic imperative that could pay off more than fixing health care, more than fixing social security and more than fixing immigration.



The second term has brought a new environmental focus for the administration (Washington Post).

The Capitol Power Plant continues to lead DC in carbon emissions (NY Times).

 Nebraska lawsuit could delay the Keystone XL pipeline (Washington Post). Transporting Canadian crude oil has substantial risks (NY Times).

Climate change has had significant effects in California (LA Times).

The feds have missed deadlines for setting commercial appliance energy efficiency rules (Stateline).

You didn’t need to be a scientist to figure out that 2012 was bad for the environment: Superstorm Sandy, killer heat waves, vanishing sea ice. But, just in case you were wondering, the scientist have weighed in with a verdict: It was bad.

The 2012 State of the Climate report details all the ways, the climate is changing. In declaring 2012 one of the hottest years on record, the scientists also warned it’s the new normal.

The Chicago Tribune detailed some more specific findings from the report:

- Sea levels reached a record high, after a sharp decrease in 2011 possibly linked to

the Pacific Ocean phenomenon La Nina, which can have a cooling effect;

- Arctic sea ice shrank to its smallest summer minimum since satellite records began 34 years ago, while Antarctic sea ice reached a record high;

- More than 97 percent of the ice sheet covering Greenland melted at least a bit in the summer of 2012, four times greater than the 1981-2010 average;

- Average sea surface temperatures rose, but not much, making 2012 among the 11th warmest years on record;

- Ocean heat was near record high levels in the upper half-mile of the water, and temperatures also increased in the deep ocean.

With 384 scientists contributing to the report, it backs up what climate change activists have been saying for years.

“It’s critically important to compile a big picture,” National Climatic Data Center director Tom Karl says. “The signs that we see are of a warming world.”


Consumers prefer hybrids to electric vehicles (NY Times).

The EPA is divided internally about fracking and the safety of well water (LA Times).

Carbon farming could curb CO2 emissions (BBC).

A study finds a link between climate change and violence (BBC).

U.S. oil reserves are at record highs (Washington Post).

A company reaches a biofuel milestone  (NY Times).

Better technology could help prevent large-scale blackouts (NY Times).