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Posts Tagged ‘climate change’

I am no Roger Ebert, but I do love movies and documentaries, especially if they pertain to the environment. Chasing Ice is a documentary about National Geographic photographer James Balong who started the Extreme Ice Survey to document changes in glaciers in Iceland, Greenland, and Alaska.  This is by no means a prolonged edition of Storm Chasers.

“We have to get to this shot for the ratings!”

Kara got to see it too (Kara, are you out there??!!) and I asked for her recommendation before heading over to E Street Cinema in downtown DC.  If you haven’t been to E Street Cinema I recommend you go.  They have a great selection of films that most big box theaters don’t show, annnddd they serve beer and wine (their food menu is pretty unique too – jalapeno pretzels, hummus, vegan cookies).

The last environmental films I recall seeing were Gasland, Food Inc., Forks over Knives, and the grandaddy of them all – An Inconvenient Truth – all of which I enjoyed.  Chasing Ice was more about the journey of James Balong and his life goal to do something meaningful.  He created the Extreme Ice Survey after receiving grant funding (ice shoes and cameras to withstand -40 degree weather are not cheap) to place approximately 30 cameras at glacier sites in Iceland, Greenland, and Alaska.

The film documented James’ journey to select these field sites, and their struggle to capture useful images.  I don’t want to spill the beans for you, but the glaciers did not grow larger.  I appreciated the film because it showed James’ determination (e.g., knee surgery problems) and his drive to complete and make the project a success.  The glacier images are captivating, his research conclusions are real evidence, and his impact (hopefully!) is one that cannot be replicated.  Now Balong travels around the world and discusses his findings from the Survey.

The film is showing in major U.S. cities and I hope you have the opportunity to see it.  Spoiler alert:  I caught the last showing in DC last week.

Have a great week. Cheers.

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This kid has not been to a wedding to do the real electric slide

The news I’m reporting is electric.  It pertains to the trucking industry (I have a thing for big cars that can get the mileage of a Prius (when I studied in Italy I found a diesel Land Rover, it’s not available in the U.S.)).  A new report by the Carbon War Room found that the trucking industry could eliminate 624 million tons of carbon dioxide by 2020, and each truck would save $22,400 annually by retrofitting to electric engines. Now, I’m not a mechanic and I don’t know the full logistics of how the conversion would occur (that’s what YouTube is for), but the article reports that transmission and cruise control upgrades and better tires will play a large role in the reduction of carbon dioxide (I’m not for warming, I like wearing a jacket in the winter).

The most important conclusion of the report is that the financing for the upgrades will be repaid in 18 months!  We often forget that most of the goods we get in this country are trucked and transported from a port or warehouse that can be several states away, especially food (I don’t need pineapples in the dead of winter)!  The trucking industry is a very large sector of economy and the potential for reduction of carbon dioxide is great. EPA started the “SmartWay Partnership” in 2004 to reduce carbon emissions in the trucking industry.

Since it began, the program has amassed nearly 3,000 partners that have benefited from $6.5 billion in fuel savings and reduced 23.6 million metric tons of carbon dioxide, according to the agency.

Two weeks ago, the City of Chicago announced it received $15 million  from the U.S. Department of Transportation to create an incentive program for the private and public trucking industry to convert to electric vehicles.

Phew Doritos are electric

The program is set to launch in the Spring of 2013 and Chicago will be a national leader of electric fleets on it’s city’s streets. The vouchers will support up to 60% of the conversion costs and roughly 250 vouchers will be issued.

This movement is great; both sides benefit – reduced fuel costs and lower carbon emissions.  This news also comes at a time when Consumer Reports just announced that the Chevy Volt is America’s Most Loved Car. 92% of owners said they would buy the Volt again.  If I had to take a survey, I’d give high remarks to my no-car decision, as I approach year 3.  Do what you can to reduce your footprint – walk, bike, public transport, reduce the weight in your car, make less trips, and carpool.

Have a great week. Cheers.

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Sandy, ya betta shape up

Hurricane Sandy made landfall Monday, October 29, 2012 and for most states in the Northeast the impacts are the worst anyone has ever seen from any weather system.  New Jersey in particular, my home state, barred some of the worst impacts leaving many shore communities underwater and making downtown Atlantic City look like Canal Street in downtown New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina (yes, I said it, minus the looting).  A local New Orleans blogger gave some tips to the Northeast on how to deal with power outages and how to deal with clean up; you can read the humorous post here.

In a nutshell, the storm paralyzed major transportation systems in NYC, DC, and Philadelphia, at least 80 homes burned in a NY neighborhood,  West Virginia mountains had two-three feet of snow, and many beach communities had boardwalks, piers, and storefront properties that were devastated.  Just this morning, a levee breach flooded three communities in northern New Jersey, one of those communities just ten minutes from my family.  My family is ok, but most don’t have power.  There have been 26 U.S. deaths from the storm to date.

It’s good to see that federal and state assistance has been released to a few states for disaster clean up.  Eight counties in NJ have been declared as disaster sites, and the NJ Turnpike is only open at exits 1-10.  The NIEHS, a branch under NIH, offers some of the best emergency response tools for the public and first responders after hurricanes, they can be found here.

The timing is just one week before the national presidential election, and Obama’s response to the storm has been applauded so far.  He has been in engaged in active communication with Northeast governors and mayors.  There’s much that could be said to the severity of the storm and what it says about human induced climate change, but for now I won’t go there.  For now my thoughts are with my family in NJ, the millions without power and damaged homes across the affected states, the safety of the first responders who protect us, and to rebuilding communities affected by the storm. Cheers.

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Just 3 days. I haven’t seen my favorite Texas country star, Pat Green, since Mardi Gras last year in New Orleans; so before I talk about anything I think you should take a listen.

What I really meant was only 3 days till the opening ceremony of the 2012 London Summer Olympics!  London’s mayor has viewed the Olympics as an opportunity to transcend neighborhoods into sustainable communities for other countries to emulate.  The London 2012 Sustainability Plan highlights how London has aimed to host the most sustainable Games ever. The London Sustainability Plan focused on five key themes: climate change, waste, biodiversity, inclusion (new local employment and business opportunities), and healthy living. The Guardian UK reported on how the Games would focus on the key themes.

Look at this GREAT list of what London has done so far:

  • The Velodrome is almost 100 per cent naturally ventilated and uses natural light to reduce energy consumption and rain water will be collected from the roof for flushing toilets and irrigation.
  • The Olympic Stadium’s roof was made out of unwanted gas pipelines.
  • Water used to clean the swimming pool filters in the Aquatics Centre will be recycled for toilet flushing.
  • The foundations for venues and roads have used recycled materials and many of the venues and bridges will have green habitat spaces incorporated into walls and roofs.
  • Over 100 hectares of new parklands for people and wildlife with over 4,000 trees and over 300,000 wetland plants.
  • 100 per cent of spectators arriving at the Games by public transport or by walking or cycling.
  • Improvements to 80km of cycling and walking routes to the Olympic Park and just under 6,000 temporary bike parking spaces during the Games.

Congrats to London, and I hope you enjoy the green Games. Cheers.

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Today, we interrupt our regularly scheduled griping to bring you some excellent (!!!) news for climate change progress and for cleaner air standards. 

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Yesterday, a federal appeals court ruled 3 – 0 in favor of EPA. in four cases challenging the regulation of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases under the Clean Air Act. As reported by U.S. News & World Report,

A three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals in Washington said that the Environmental Protection Agency was “unambiguously correct” in using existing federal law to address global warming, denying two of the challenges to four separate regulations and dismissing the others.

The ruling dishes out a heavy blow to Republicans and climate-change deniers who asserted that EPA was overstepping its bounds by regulating greenhouse gases through existing climate change regulation.

In addition to clarifying that EPA does, in fact, have jurisdiction to use existing legislation to regulate greenhouse gases, the ruling also spoke to those who challenged the scientific integrity of EPA’s work.  In what may take a new place among my list of favorite lines from awesome court decisions, the judges completely validated the science behind EPA’s work and even spoke to those who claim that there are too many uncertainties in climate models, saying:

“This is how science works,” the unsigned opinion said. “EPA is not required to re-prove the existence of the atom every time it approaches a scientific question.”

(Personally, I’d like to know if anyone in North Carolina was paying attention to that statement.)

Although industry groups state that they will continue to fight the regulations (stating the usual “oh no it’s going to hurt the economy,” because clearly that’s what happened when we passed the Clean Air Act the first time around… ), it’s interesting to note that these views don’t actually represent the American public as a whole.  Rather, polls conducted by the American Lung Association show that American support for clean air standards is both widespread and – shockingly – bipartisan.  In these polls, fully 72% of Americans (seriously, I dare you to find such strong support on virtually any other issue) support regulating carbon, after hearing both sides of the issue, and 73% said that they believe we don’t have to chose between a strong economy and safeguarding against pollution – we can do both.  A two-to-one majority believe that stronger regulations will improve the economy rather than hurt it. If you want to read the full memo summarizing findings from the poll, it’s available here.

With both strong public support as well as the unequivocal support of the courts, maybe EPA will finally be able to move forward with updating clean air standards, after all.  We can always hope, right?

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Spinach lovers.  It’s been a while since I’ve provided you with some munchies.  I’ve been lacking in a green diet myself lately, after having slipped into somewhat of a coma.  But I’ve emerged!  And boy, was there lots to catch up on.

It’s been a little like this.

I was quite tempted, for selfish purposes, to dedicate today’s post to catching you up on Congressional activity of interest–because there will be lots of interesting goodness this week.  We’ve got the transportation reauthorization conference kicking off on Tuesday.  Let me just say very quickly that while there is plenty to be concerned about there (coal ash regulation and NEPA “streamlining”), everyone’s favorite pipeline will also be back.  I’ve come to realize that Republicans believe that everyday is Halloween and therefore we should be constantly trying to resurrecting the dead. Good thing they brought me back instead.

ROAR! Or whatever zombies say.

The appropriations process is well under way, too.  For those who don’t remember, last year’s Interior-Environment bill was chocked full of nuts, particularly trying to strangle-hold the EPA.  House Interior-Enviro Subcommittee Chairman Mike Simpson (R-ID) doesn’t think this year will be any prettier.

I wish I was referring to these nuts.

Then of course, we’ll begin preparing for what is now being dubbed Taxmageddon.  Expiration of the Bush tax cuts, payroll tax reduction, sustainable growth repayment formula for physicians, and, for our purposes, many energy tax provisions = Taxmageddon.  (See my previous post “Year of the Tax” for more info.)

So I was in the middle of muddling through these waters when I stumbled across this.  Have your vomit bag near or finish eating, take a walk, and then read this.

You all may remember sometime back hearing about the infamous Heartland Institute (see El C’s post) and their funding of projects to debunk climate change.  Well, if that wasn’t bad enough, Heartland has apparently said, “To hell with our tarnished image,” and decided to be up front about their views.  With that, I leave you with this image.

For those with strong stomachs who want to know more, see this from Think Progress.

Welcome back to the battle lines friends.

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Well, here’s something new for ya: after watching weirder and weirder weather unfold for the past few years, a poll released today (reported by the New York Times) shows that the majority of Americans believe these events are the result of – wait for it – climate change.

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Like I said: weird weather.

It’s certainly true that the past years have been an adventure.  Between the infamous east coast Snowmageddon (which I missed, because I was totally in Abu Dhabi, no joke), record flooding of the Mississippi River in 2011,  last year’s summer heat wave, the 2011 droughts in Texas and Oklahoma,  increasing tornadoes across the midwest and southern U.S., and 2012 bringing the warmest March on record, there have been no shortage of unusual patterns.  That’s just inside the U.S., too.

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This might be a good time to turn around, eh?

Conducted by Knowledge Networks on behalf of teams at Yale and George Mason University, the study itself is the most comprehensive to date tracking public opinion on climate change. By almost a 2 – to – 1 ratio, Americans believe extreme weather patterns are due to global warming. A higher percentage than ever say that they have personally been impacted by the effects of climate change.  On top of that, after years where economic issues and concerns about international unrest eclipsed the issue of climate, the poll shows climate change is starting to climb the ranks once again.  (As an aside, failure to act on climate and energy could have profound negative impacts for both international politics as well as the economy, so I’ve always seen the issues as linked – but that hasn’t been the case with popular opinion.)

Of course, whether or not these individual events ARE directly caused by climate change is not as clear-cut as we’d like it to be.  Evidence is strongest that increased precipitation as well as heat waves are a result of climate change.  Wind patterns are also shifting, which could be the cause of the recent increase in the number of tornadoes. But, as with most environmental issues, the science isn’t what sways public opinion.  After all, the scientists have been beating the drum for years. We’ve seen the Keeling Curve showing the increase in CO2 detected by Manua Loa observatory in Hawaii.

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(But just in case you haven't, here it is again.)

We’ve all seen photos of flooding in Bangladesh, and sad pictures of polar bears trapped on a single block of ice. But it hasn’t done much.  What sways public opinion, if past is precedent, is when people start to be impacted.  When it’s my town, my home, my family, my friends, my job, or my future that is on the line, people start to sit up and listen.  The issue, at that point, is real.

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So is this polar bear. Hey, I had to include at least one.

And that’s precisely why many advocacy groups are jumping on shifting weather patterns as an opening.  Groups like 350.org, Sierra Club, Environmental Defense Fund, and other advocacy organizations see this as a way to grab public attention and increase momentum towards action.  Perhaps for the first time, climate change is no longer a far-off warning that we might not live to see, but something that could actually impact our daily lives.  That’s a new thought for a lot of folks, I think.

While it’s a shame that the past few decades politicized the issue and drowned out the voice of the scientific community, many are wondering if this real shift is what we need.  For years, climate change deniers could point to the fact that there was ‘no concrete evidence’ as a way of poking holes in scientific data.  Now, it seems events might be shifting to fall in favor of the other size of the fence.

Of course, whether or not any action comes of it remains to be seen.  If not, we’ll just be buying those sustainable bikinis in January, right?

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