Your weekly news roundup on everything environment
Can we call it global warming yet?
No it’s not just in you’re head. It’s unusually hot this summer. And it's not just this summer, the last 12 months have been the hottest since record-keeping started.
Odds are, the cause is global warming. According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), the odds of this heat wave occurring randomly would be 1 in 1,594,323. That’s pretty low odds.
Even critics of that number concede that the chance this heat isn’t global warming would be 1 in 100,000.
Now saying any specific weather event happened “because of” climate change is difficult. So how do they come up with those odds? Here’s a great explanation from the American Meterological Society:
One analogy of the effects of climate change on extreme weather is with a baseball player (or to choose another sport, a cricketer) who starts taking steroids and afterwards hits on average 20% more home runs (or sixes) in a season than he did before. For any one of his home runs (sixes) during the years the player was taking steroids, you would not know for sure whether it was caused by steroids or not. But you might be able to attribute his increased number to the steroids. And given that steroids have resulted in a 20% increased chance that any particular swing of the player’s bat results in a home run (or a six), you would be able to mae an attribution statement that, all other things being equal, steroid use had increased the probability of that particular occurrence by 20%.
The analogy has caught on, with scientists from the University Corporation for Atmospheric research (UCAR) making a video making the link as well. Watch below:
The Monsanto Rider
One of the founding principles in our Constitution is that no man is above the law; that even the President and all Representatives in Congress must adhere to the same laws as your average joe. That is, unless you’re Monsanto.
Slipped into the FY 2013 Agricultural Appropriations bill is the so-called “Monsanto rider,” which would require the Secretary of Agriculture to grant a temporary permit for the planting or cultivation of a genetically engineered crop, even if a federal court has ordered the planting be halted until an Environmental Impact Statement is completed.
In laymans terms, if this single line rider slips through, it would essentially give Monsanto immunity from U.S. courts and the regulatory purview of the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
In a statement issued last month, the Center for Food Safety had this to say:
Ceding broad and unprecedented powers to industry, the rider poses a direct threat to the authority of U.S. courts, jettisons the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) established oversight powers on key agriculture issues and puts the nation’s farmers and food supply at risk.
The House is expected to vote on this rider any day now. We can only hope that the Senate will stand strong in the face of corporate immunity. To read the full report by truth-out, click here.
The Salmon is Evolving!!
“For salmon trying to make it upriver to spawn before a hot summer hits, slow and steady loses the evolutionary race.”
The pink salmon is evolving, and the cause is climate change, according to researchers at the University of Alaska at Fairbanks.
Over the last 30 years, nature has increasingly selected for fish that migrate from the ocean earlier in the year. It is among the first pieces of genetic evidence that climate change is driving the evolution of a species. The pink salmon’s migration from the ocean to the river is largely controlled by its genes. That more pink salmon are migrating earlier, is a strong signal that warmer temperatures are a direct cause to this affect.
While the news that pink salmon are evolving to accommodate global warming is a good thing by most accounts, the change in the salmon’s migration pattern is worrisome for other animals, such as those that depend on eating the fatty fish for sustenance.
In Northern Mexico, Record Droughts May Be Permanent
In northern Mexico, scientists are linking the worst drought on record to climate change.
While Chihuahua is famous for its desert, rainfall was not uncommon. But over the last seven decades, annual precipitation has steadily fallen. This year, it has not rained at all.
The cost? In Chihuahua, an estimated 350,000 cows have died in the past 12 months, costing ranchers 2.4bn pesos.
Farmers are also facing the heat, where in a typical year, Chihuahua produces 100,000 metric tons of corn. In 2011, only 500 tons survived.
“Parts of northern Mexico are now in permanent drought. In other words, the climate has already changed,” says Carlos Gay, an atmospheric physicist and head of the climate change programme at Mexico City’s UNAM.
“There is no doubt that this drought is the result of climate change. When you look at a single event, you cannot say so, but when you look at the bigger pattern it becomes very clear.”
Chihuahua, which has been ravaged by a drug conflict that has claimed thousands of lives, certainly didn’t need a natural disaster to add to its woes. But as the drought looms on, many are on the verge of famine. Already, the regional and federal governments have given out food aid to 60,000 families facing starvation. The mixture of a drug war and a never-ending drought could prove to be a deadly mix for some of the country’s poorest citizens.
Study: Fluids from Marcellus Shale likely seeping into PA drinking water
According to a new study, salty, mineral-rich fluids deep beneath Pennsylvania’s natural gas fields are likely seeping upward thousands of feet into drinking water supplies.
The fluids are natural, not the byproduct of hydraulic fracturing. But the movement of fluids upward of thousands of feet, lends further proof that drilling waste chemicals could migrate in ways previously thought impossible.
The study, conducted by scientists at Duke University and California State Polytechnic University at Pomona, found that drinking water in Pennsylvania had mixed with brine that closely matched brine thought to be from the Marcellus Shale or areas close to it.
The brine’s presence contradicts any notion that deeply buried rock layers will always seal in material injected underground through drilling, mining or underground disposal.
Last year, some of the same Duke researchers found that methane gas was far more likely to leak into water supplies in places adjacent to drilling.
But the research drew swift criticism from both the oil and gas industry, and one scientist on the National Academy of Science’s peer review panel, Terry Engleder. In a letter, Engelder accused the study of “science based advocacy,” disagreeing with the study’s findings that the brine was from the Marcellus Shale, albeit, admitting the basic premise of the article — that fluids seemed to have migrated thousands of feet upward into the PA water supply.
Coast Guard Refuses Certification of Shell’s Oil Spill Barge
Shell sets sail for Arctic seas, but Shell’s oil spill recovery barge remains docked after failing to receive Coast Guard certification.
The Coast Guard raised a series of safety concerns, including the barge’s fire protection system, electrical wiring and piping. Additionally, the Coast Guard has criticized the barge for not being able to withstand a “100-year storm.” Shell operators contend that the Coast Guard requirement for the barge to withstand a 100-year storm is unnecessary, believing the ability to withstand a 10-year storm is sufficient.
Yet it was JUST LAST YEAR that Alaska was hit with “the most severe Bering Sea storms on record,” only a week after the end of Shell’s Beaufort drilling season.
Drilling in the Arctic’s pristine waters has been highly controversial due to the lack of infrastructure in Northern Alaska needed, should a spill occur. The nearest port is over 1,000 miles away from the drill sites and “there are no roads whatsoever connecting communities along the North Slope of Alaska.”
The federal Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement has said it will not issue final drilling permits until the Arctic Challenger receives final Coast Guard certification. With only a short window for drilling in the Arctic until dangerous sea ice covers the landscape, Shell would need approval shortly, to make this drilling season profitable. One can only hope, things don’t turn out in their favor.
Accidental Vote Reverses North Carolina Fracking Ban
The North Carolina legislature needed exactly 72 votes to override Governor Bev Perdue’s veto of controversial legislation that would overturn the state’s ban on hydraulic fracturing. And sadly, they got every last vote needed — but it wasn’t supposed to be that way.
Democrat lawmaker Rep. Becky Carney, who has consistently voted against fracking before, cried out after casting her vote. Apparently she had pushed the wrong button, casting a “yes” vote, when she swears she intended for a “no” vote.
Immediately, Ms. Carney asked for a do-over, as is common when a member pushes the wrong button. But this time around, Republicans said no.
A change in Carney’s vote would have changed the outcome, which is against the House rules. But considering this was an accident, Ms. Carney asked for the rules to be suspended, but got nowhere.
It’s a rather mean trick, and one that won’t be forgotten. But the question still remains; how the frack did they get within one vote of overriding the veto in the first place?