Daily Archives: March 30, 2013

Obama Signs Monsanto Protection Act

E120, food-matters, e145

Listening Post – Media mea culpas and the Iraq war

Media, e120,

You have received a YouTuSouth2North – Foreign aid: A blessing or a curse?

E120, e145,

4MIN News March 30, 2013: NASA ISON – We Have a Measurement


Counting the Cost – China: A new colonial power?

E130, e120,

Cyprus big depositors to lose up to 60%


Key Canada climate centre faces closure

E120, e130

Frackers dodge responsibility for earthquakes, science be damned


By Susie Cagle


We’ve known for a couple of years that fracking for oil and gas has been linked to some sizable earthquakes. The shaking doesn’t actually come from the high-pressure fracking itself, but from the injection of tons of post-frack dirty wastewater into disposal wells. Only Ohio requires a risk assessment for quakes around the state’s injection wells.

Mother Jones digs into this story, speaking with numerous scientists who agree: Frack the earth and it will frack you back. “There is no shortage of evidence,” writes reporter Michael Behar.

Between 1972 and 2008, the USGS recorded just a few earthquakes a year in Oklahoma. In 2008, there were more than a dozen; nearly 50 occurred in 2009. In 2010, the number exploded to more than 1,000. These so-called “earthquake swarms” are occurring in other places where the ground is not supposed to move. There have been abrupt upticks in both the size and frequency of quakes in Arkansas, Colorado, Ohio, and Texas. Scientists investigating these anomalies are coming to the same conclusion: The quakes are linked to injection wells. Into most of them goes wastewater from hydraulic fracking, while some … are filled with leftover fluid from dewatering operations.

Flatter states are more susceptible to fracking-related quakes — as MoJo puts it, “a stone makes a bigger splash when it’s hurled into a glassy pond than a river of raging whitewater.” (But pretty please don’t take that as an invitation to drill California to shaky bits.)

The least surprising part of all this? That the industry is reluctant to accept that it might be responsible for tearing peoples’ houses down — or at least that it doesn’t want to talk to lefty magazines about it.

Some scientists are concerned that industry and government officials don’t want to work with them on the issue.

“Nobody is talking to one another about this,” says William Ellsworth, a prominent USGS geophysicist who’s published more than 100 papers on earthquakes. Among other mishaps, Ellsworth worries that a well could pierce an unknown fault “five miles from a nuclear power plant.” …

There is “a lack of companies cooperating with scientists,” complains seismologist [John] Armbruster. “I was naive and thought companies would work with us. But they are stonewalling us, saying they don’t believe they are causing the quakes.” Admitting guilt could draw lawsuits and lead to new regulation. So it’s no surprise, says [researcher Justin] Rubinstein, “that industry is going to keep data close to their chest.” When I ask Jean Antonides, New Dominion’s VP of exploration, why the industry is sequestering itself from public inquiry, he replies, “Nobody wants to be the face of this thing.” Plenty of misdeeds are pinned on oil and gas companies; none wants to add earthquakes to the list.

Geophysicists often work with oil and gas companies, further muddying the wastewater when it comes to the fracking facts. One of those scientists, Stanford professor and industry booster Mark Zoback, tells Behar: “Three things are predictable whenever earthquakes occur that might be caused by fluid injection: The companies involved deny it, the regulators go into a brain freeze because they don’t know what to do, and the press goes into a feeding frenzy because they get to beat up on the oil and gas industry, whether it is responsible or not.”

Global Climate Change http://courses.dce.harvard.edu/~envre130
Environmental Justice http://courses.dce.harvard.edu/~envre145
Environment Ethics http://courses.dce.harvard.edu/~envre120

Lost City Of New Orleans (BBC Documentary)


Published on Jan 23, 2013

Modern day New Orleans was a city that defied the odds. Built on a mosquito-infested swamp surrounded by water, it sits in a bowl 2.5m below sea-level. Its very existence seemed proof of the triumph of engineering over nature.

But on the 29 August 2005 the city took a direct hit from Hurricane Katrina and overnight turned into a Venice from hell. In the chaos that followed the worst natural disaster in American history, a forensic investigation has begun to find out what went wrong and why. Scientists are now confronting the real possibility that New Orleans may be the first of many cities to face extinction.

Professor Ivor Van Heerden of Louisiana State University’s Hurricane Centre used computer modelling to simulate hurricane paths across New Orleans. He had been appointed by the state to discover why New Orleans flooded so catastrophically and had his own unique methods of gathering data. By collecting eye-witness testimonies from residents and the stopped clocks from their flooded homes, Van Heerden pieced together a timeline of the levee breaches. He also took samples from the breach sites for analysis.

His results were shocking. He believed they showed that there was a design fault in the levees. “The old system that led to the design and the building of them, the funding, the decision making process, didn’t work. We’ve got to change that and part of that is going to be for the federal government and the engineers corps to step up to the plate and say we screwed up.”

Over the years the levees and dams stopped annual floods from the Mississippi River. As a result sediments that were brought down by the river to replenish the land were prevented from reaching their natural destination. Gradually Louisiana started to lose its coast. Today it has the highest rate of coastal land loss in North America. Every 20 minutes an area the size of Wembley stadium is swallowed up by the sea.

Shea Penland, a coastal geologist at the University of New Orleans, knows every inlet, every cove and every stretch of marsh that surrounds the city. He also knows that Louisiana’s wetlands, thought of as wasteland for years, are in fact critical to the survival of the city. Providing protection against storm surges, these wetlands are a natural defence against the onslaught of hurricanes. As he says: “The first line of defence isn’t the levee in your backyard, the first line of defence is that marsh in your back yard and we’re learning what that means.”

After the disaster, he chartered a seaplane to investigate the overnight loss to Louisiana’s precious wetlands. What he discovered sounded like the death knoll for the city. In just one night, Louisiana had lost three-quarters of the wetland that it usually loses in one year. Without this protection, New Orleans is a sitting duck against future storms.

And the problems don’t just stop there. The city itself is sinking. Since 1878 it has dropped by 4.5m, one of the highest rates of subsidence in the entire United States. Once again it’s mainly human intervention that is to blame. According to Professor Harry Roberts, a geologist at the Louisiana State University: “It’s been accelerated by man’s efforts to keep the water out of the city. When you pump the water out of those kinds of soils they start to collapse and even more importantly the organic material oxidises and goes away so you’ve taken out one component of the soil, and all that adds up to subsidence.”

Global Climate Change http://courses.dce.harvard.edu/~envre130
Environmental Justice http://courses.dce.harvard.edu/~envre145
Environment Ethics http://courses.dce.harvard.edu/~envre120

Earth’s Carbon Cycles


Uploaded on Nov 15, 2011

Nov 10, 2011 Carbon Cycle 2.0 talk Donald DePaolo
Associate Lab Director for Energy and Environmental Sciences, LBNL

The root cause of climate change is what could be called “carbon cycle change.” To change global climate, the amount of CO2 in the atmosphere needs to change, which in turn requires a change in the way carbon is moved around among the various forms and places it exists in and on the Earth. Today, 98 to 99% of the net movement of carbon out of geologic reservoirs into the atmosphere is due to human activities. Whether you think this is a problem or not, it is nevertheless a fact that we are currently doing something that is unprecedented in Earth history.

Global Climate Change http://courses.dce.harvard.edu/~envre130
Environment Ethics http://courses.dce.harvard.edu/~envre120