July 25, 2016
Donald Trump’s running mate, Mike Pence, questions climate change just like Trump himself does.
By contrast, a peek into the recent past of Hillary Clinton’s running mate, Sen. Tim Kaine of Virginia, suggests he takes the issue seriously and has paid particular attention to how it is affecting his constituents in the Hampton Roads area of Virginia, which faces some of the largest rates of sea level rise in the country. The link also underscores the strong connection between climate change and national security, because one of the key players that must grapple with sea level rise in the area is Naval Station Norfolk, “the largest naval complex in the world.”
And it suggests that by approaching the issue in this way — focusing on regional vulnerability and on national security — Kaine has actually been able to make some significant bipartisan progress.
To understand why the Hampton Roads region is so vulnerable, it helps to think about how it’s like another region that is often cited as the only one in the United States that’s worse off — New Orleans. As in New Orleans, in the Hampton Roads area it isn’t just that seas are rising, but also that land itself is getting lower.
“The land is sinking at about three or four millimeters a year, and sea level is rising, three or four millimeters per year,” said Larry Atkinson, an oceanographer at Old Dominion University in Norfolk. “So that adds up to two feet per century. And then there’s a bunch of new evidence that show that the whole North Atlantic Ocean is changing, and as it changes, the Gulf Stream slows down, we see sea level rise.”
Some of these factors, like subsidence, may be partly natural and geologically driven (though subsidence is also caused by humans pumping water out of the ground). But rising seas — at an accelerating rate — is a phenomenon reflecting global warming. The Gulf Stream changes, too, are thought to be due to climate change.
According to the Center for Sea Level Rise at Old Dominion University, Hampton Roads ranks 10th globally when it comes to the value of assets that are exposed to rising seas.
Which brings us to Kaine. In 2014, ODU launched a “pilot project” to begin to address sea level rise by coordinating all the parties involved — local, state, federal — to address the issue. That’s when Kaine got really involved, Atkinson said.
“Several years ago we started working to get the Navy and the federal agencies and the cities to start to work together,” he said. “Kaine, after he heard we were doing that, he called a briefing where he got all of the elected representatives down here to get up on stage together to listen to this from the Corps of Engineers and the Navy.”
Check out the video, above, of Tim Kaine speaking in 2012 at a clean economy roundtable held at cleantech strategic marketing firm Tigercomm (based in Arlington). Kaine stressed the need to move from dirty to clean energy for environmental and other reasons. Four years later, it makes even more sense, given the plummeting cost of solar and wind power. Anyway, here’s a summary of Kaine’s main points, courtesy of Tigercomm’s blog, Scaling Green:
- It’s time for opponents of clean energy to stop acting like the reign of fossil fuels as our dominant energy source constitutes some sort of inviolable theology.
- Even for those who don’t “believe” in climate science, or who think clean energy is a science project, it’s still common sense to move ahead aggressively with energy efficiency and clean energy. Unless, of course, they want America assigned permanent international follower status on the technologies other counties want to lead. Read the rest of this entry »
July 24, 2016
July 22, 2016
This extraordinary sight – in a video filmed of the tundra on remote Belyy Island in the Kara Sea off the Yamal Peninsula coastline – was witnessed by a scientific research expedition. Researchers Alexander Sokolov and Dorothee Ehrich spotted 15 patches of trembling or bubbling grass-covered ground.
When punctured they emitted methane and carbon dioxide, according to measurements, although so far no details have been given. The reason is as yet unclear, but one possible explanation of the phenomenon is abnormal heat that caused permafrost to thaw, releasing gases.
Alexander Sokolov said that this summer is unusually hot on the Arctic island, a sign of which is polar bears moving from the frozen sea to the island.
July 20, 2016
But we already knew that fossil fuel’s deception was bottomless, right?
Exxon and its allies have dismissed comparisons to Big Tobacco as baseless. Our research in more than 14 million documents of the Tobacco Industry Archives reveals compelling evidence that the relationship between these two industries is neither coincidental nor casual. Beyond a doubt, the oil companies have benefitted from the tobacco playbook in their fight against climate science.
But the question arises, where did the tobacco companies get their playbook in the first place?
The Center for International Environmental Law (CIEL) today launched SmokeandFumes.org, a website featuring internal industry documents dating back to the 1950s that reveal the nexus between the oil and tobacco industries’ shared campaigns to undermine science to delay accountability and political action to curtail their deadly products.
CIEL has uncovered new evidence showing that it was the work performed for the oil industry by PR firms (particularly Hill & Knowlton) that attracted the tobacco industry to follow suit — in contrast to the prevailing narrative that Big Oil deployed the Tobacco Playbook to ward off responsibility for climate change resulting from its fossil fuel pollution.
“Again and again we found both the PR firms and the researchers worked first for oil, then for tobacco,” said CIEL President Carroll Muffett in a statement. “It was a pedigree the tobacco companies recognized and sought out.”
ExxonMobil’s excuse in the face of #ExxonKnew has, in part, relied on the defense that oil is not the new tobacco. At the end of the day, as Muffett points out in the video below, the final result is the same, despite who was first to devise the strategies of deception and attacking inconvenient science.
July 20, 2016
A developing story over recent weeks while I was out of the country was the huge and toxic bloom of algae devastating Florida waterways – part of an evolving, global environmental threat that has roots in agriculture, pollution, waste water, invasive species, and climate change.
Above, in my wide ranging interview with Arctic expert Dr. David Barber in Sweden a few weeks ago, the rise of toxic algae blooms in arctic waters came up.
Below, if you have not seen Dr. Alan Steinman’s interview, highly recommended. Great Lakes Aquatic biologist, and expert on these organisms.
The mess in Florida is only the latest in a string of algal blooms that some experts believe are increasing in frequency and in severity. An immense plume of blue-green algae last September covered a 636-mile stretch of the Ohio River. A month earlier, the city of Toledo, Ohio, warned more than 400,000 residents to avoid drinking tap water after toxic algae spread over an intake in Lake Erie. (Indeed, the Lake Erie bloom is now an annual event.)
The vast algal bloom in the Pacific last year was also fed in part by El Niño, the mass of warm water that forms periodically off the West Coast. But longer-term climate change may also be playing a role, some experts say.
Warming atmospheric temperatures and wetter weather in some parts of the country increase the nutrient-laden runoff into streams, lakes and the ocean. And as ice melts in the Arctic, sea temperatures are rising and more sunlight is filtering into the ocean.
“Some of the features of climate change, such as warmer ocean temperatures and increased light availability through the loss of sea ice in the Arctic, are making conditions more favorable for phytoplankton growth — both toxic and nontoxic algae — in more regions and farther north,” Kathi Lefebvre, a biologist at NOAA’s Northwest Fisheries Science Center in Seattle, wrote in an email.
Rob Sisson is practically a neighbor, fellow Michigander, and a real nice, smart guy.
He’s trying to be a voice of reason in the most hostile environment imaginable.
Growing numbers of conservative voters agree the U.S. needs more clean energy, reported members of organizations at this week’s Republican National Convention in Cleveland. However, there’s little agreement on how government policies should pursue that goal.
Conservative interest in encouraging clean energy reflects voters’ growing concern about climate change, said Alicia Kolar Prevost of Defend Our Future. The organization partnered with Bloomberg Government to host a roundtable luncheon on Monday about the future of climate change conversations within the Republican Party.
A majority of Republicans — 56 percent — agree climate change is happening, according to a recent Yale/George Mason University survey referenced by Prevost. Supporters of presidential hopefuls still in the major party races at the time were more likely to vote for a candidate who supports taking action to reduce global warming, the report found.
“The polling is going to be critical going forward to show candidates that they need to come along,” said Rob Sisson, president of ConservAmerica.
“People in political office are sensitive to what brings in votes,” stressed Nan Hayworth, a former member of Congress from New York state and a director of ConservAmerica. “As electeds, we can’t be too far behind our districts. We can’t be too far ahead of our districts.”
Religion, hunting and prosperity
While conservative Republicans may not agree with Democrats’ policies, they share a range of concerns about climate change.
“First and foremost, it’s a moral issue,” said Rachel Lamb of Young Evangelicals for Climate Action. As she sees it, climate change is “negatively impacting people, as well as the environment, which we’re called to take care of by God.”
“God has given us a commandment to take care of our planet,” agreed Ash Mason of the Christian Coalition, referring to a passage in the book of Genesis.
July 19, 2016
Back just in time.
As we descend into the depths of summer, some of the year’s hottest temperatures may be soon upon us. Forecasters expect a high pressure ridge and extreme temperatures to combine to create what is referred to as a “heat dome” over large portions of the United States.
A heat dome occurs when high pressure in the upper atmosphere acts as a lid, preventing hot air from escaping. The air is forced to sink back to the surface, warming even further on the way. This phenomenon will result in dangerously hot temperatures that will envelop the nation throughout the week. Heat index values for parts of the U.S. are expected to reach 110 degrees or higher. In response, the National Weather Service has issued heat alerts for more than a dozen states across the U.S.
This map, based on data from NOAA’s HRRR Model shows the predicted high temperatures on July 18, 2016 at 5 p.m. EDT. These temperatures reflect the beginning of the scorching heat wave that is expected to last throughout the week.
The culprit for the sultry weather is an unusually intense and expansive area of high pressure, also referred to as a “heat dome,” that is parking itself over the South Central U.S.
The clockwise circulation of air around this high is dragging moisture from the Gulf of Mexico and pumping it northward, all the way to Canada, which is resulting in the high humidity levels.
In addition, evapotranspiration from crops in agricultural states such as Nebraska, Kansas, Iowa and Minnesota is also adding to the moisture content of the atmosphere.
The high pressure area itself will be strong enough to put it on a list of strongest such weather systems observed in that part of the country.