Daily Archives: March 16, 2016

Palm Oil Scorecard: Find Out Which Brands Are (and aren’t) Helping Save Indonesia’s Rainforests

Just a patch of forest remains between palm oil plantations. Photo credit: © Ulet Ifansasti/GreenpeaceInset: Deforestation is pushing orangutans to the brink of extinction. Photo credit: © Markus Mauthe/Greenpeace

Ivy Schlegel, Greenpeace | March 14, 2016 11:27 am

Without looking, would you know how many products in your home contain palm oil? Do you know which products are linked to deforestation?

Palm oil is absolutely everywhere—from food like breakfast cereals to pet food and even shampoo and toothpaste.

Unfortunately, the palm oil industry is a leading cause of deforestation and peatland destruction in Indonesia. Expanding palm oil plantations are destroying precious rainforest—including orangutan habitat—to plant more palm oil and then sell it for use in consumer products.

In the last few years, everyday people have spoken up in defense of Indonesia’s rainforests (thank you!) and many of the world’s largest buyers of palm oil have adopted “No Deforestation” policies, promising to buy palm oil that was not produced from deforested land or peat and is free of human rights and labor abuses associated with the palm oil sector.

Now, a few years after these promises were made, deforestation in Indonesia is on the rise rather than on the decline. To hold these brands accountable, we sent surveys to these 14 companies to hear in their own words the progress that they are making to ensure their supply chains are free of deforestation.

…(read more).

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Atlantic Salmon Is All But Extinct as a Genetically Eroded Version of Farmed Salmon Has Taken Over

Photo credit: North Atlantic Salmon Fund

Kathleen McKeoghain, AlterNet | March 14, 2016 12:56 pm
Atlantic salmon, the native salmon that used to inhabit the northern Atlantic Ocean, rivers and seas, is a species now represented by an impostor: farmed salmon. Also known as cultured salmon, farmed salmon comes from hatchery genetic stock and unlike its native ancestors, lacks wild genetic variation. The wild fish our ancestors ate is gone. What appears on our dinner plates is a substitute copy, a genetic dilution of a once mighty fish, the adaptive king of the sea and a significant food for coastal humans since prehistoric times.

The change in genetic stock has been happening for decades, as farmed salmon are released into native waters via restocking programs (in an attempt to reduce the negative impacts of overfishing of wild salmon) and also unintentionally as a consequence of faulty containment in sea net-cages. The resulting “swamping out” effect—farmed in, wild out—along with several other insidious factors, has driven native salmon to effective extinction.

Genetic Erosion

When I began to research the scientific literature on native Atlantic salmon, I was stunned to discover that this species (Salmo salar L.) is essentially extinct. How can this be possible? Is the fish before our eyes and on our platters not real? Yes, indeed it is, but the verified statistic is that 99.5 percent of all Atlantic salmon living today, whether farmed or fished from open ocean or rivers, is not what biologists call “wild type” and does not faithfully represent, in a genetic sense, the native fish that once broadly populated waters of our planet’s Holarctic zone, the ecological region that encompasses the majority of habitats found across the Earth’s northern continents.

The fish we eat today is not the fish that fed our ancestors or even the fish that fed our forebears of a century ago. Today’s salmon, because of the effects of a force called genetic erosion, is the diluted copy of a fish that once thrived on a wild genome, that tried and true set of original genes which, in the case of salmon, generated a fish capable of magnetic field navigation, survival in fresh and salt water and geochemical detection of spawning micro-habitats.

…(read more).

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13 Million Americans at Risk From Rising Seas

Climate Nexus | March 15, 2016 9:45 am
More than 13 millions Americans could be at risk from sea level rise and related flooding by the end of the century, triple the latest estimates, according to a new study in Nature Climate Change.

Based on the high-end of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s sea level rise projections, the study argues that current projections don’t take into account rapid population growth in coastal areas. Nearly 50 percent of the at risk population would be in Florida and an another 20 percent in other parts of the Southeast. The research also estimates that the cost of relocating the at risk communities would be approximately $14 trillion.


For a deeper dive:

News: New York Times, Carbon Brief, TIME, Reuters, Climate Central, USA Today, National Geographic, The Guardian, Mashable, Christian Science Monitor, Miami Herald, Phys.org, Greenwire

Commentary: The Conversation, Orrin H Pilkey, Linda Pilkey-Jarvis and Keith C Pilkey op-ed

For more climate change and clean energy news, you can follow Climate Nexus on Twitter and Facebook, and sign up for daily Hot News.


182: Total Number of Climate Deniers in Congress

February Smashes Earth’s All-Time Global Heat Record by a Jaw-Dropping Margin

Scientists: Links Between Climate Change and Extreme Weather Are Clear

NOAA: Carbon Dioxide Levels ‘Exploded’ in 2015, Highest Seen Since End of Ice Age

…(read more).

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Coin questions East Africa trade route – BBC News

18 October 2010 Last updated at 06:43 BST

A team of Kenyan and Chinese archaeologists have found a remarkable coin that seems to confirm that a legendary Chinese explorer, Zheng He, reached East Africa almost 80 years before the first Europeans.

The team has been excavating a number of sites in the village of Mambrui on Kenya’s north coast that they believe might be the original site of the ancient Sultanate of Malindi.

Until now, Portuguese trader Vasco Da Gama was believed to be responsible for opening up the region.

Professor Qin Dashu of Peking University’s archaeology department says the latest discovery is forcing historians to reconsider East Africa’s early trade relations with the rest of the world.

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The Statesman: Global warming redistributed world’s water resources

Representational image (Getty Images)

Rising temperatures worldwide are changing not only weather systems, but — just as importantly — the distribution of water around the globe, thereby affecting the availability of potable water, says a new study.

“This study shows how climate change is altering the spatial patterns and amounts of precipitation — where it comes from and where it falls,” said study co-author Myron Mitchell, professor at State University of New York College of Environmental Science and Forestry in the US.

“Such effects can drastically affect the availability of potable water and also contribute to the massive flooding we have seen in recent years,” Mitchell noted.

The findings appeared in the journal Scientific Reports.

For the study, the researchers analysed more than 40 years of water samples archived at the Hubbard Brook Experimental Forest (HBEF) in New Hampshire, US.

The researchers found that over the years, there has been a dramatic increase, especially during the winter, of the amount of water that originated far to the north.

“In the later years, we saw more water derived from evaporation of the Arctic and the North Atlantic oceans,” lead author Tamir Puntsag from State University of New York said.

Mitchell said the findings of the study will help scientists understand changes that are likely to affect global water resources.

With 85 percent of the world’s population living in the driest half of the planet and 783 million people living without access to clean water, according to the UN, it is vital for scientists and policymakers to understand how a changing climate affects water resources.

“Our research helps our understanding of the sources of rain and snow and how these precipitation patterns have changed. Our study also sheds light on what is going to happen to water resources in the future,” Mitchell said.

…(read more).

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Shell worries about climate change, but decides to continue making it worse


By Katie Herzog on 14 Mar 2016 3 comments


Shell Oil released its 2015 annual review last week, and the most surprising thing in it may be how concerned the company is with climate change. It’s hardly what you’d expect from Big Oil, and yet the words “climate change” occur 15 times in the 228 page report. While this may seem minor, it’s a hell of a lot more than climate change is discussed by most other oil monsters (Looking at you, Exxon). Shell,

unlike many oil giants, actively acknowledges and even embraces climate action — at least, on paper. “It was encouraging to see governments reach a global climate agreement in Paris in December,” the report reads. “The agreement should now encourage countries to develop policies that balance environmental concerns with enabling a decent quality of life for more people.”

Sounds great, right? But before you get too excited about the prospect of Shell transitioning to a solar company, they go ahead and ruin it: “We know that understanding the world’s future energy needs will help us improve our competitiveness. We have evolved over the last few decades from a company focused almost entirely on oil to one of the world’s leading suppliers of gas, the cleanest-burning hydrocarbon.”

While that may be true that gas is the “cleanest-burning hydrocarbon,” it’s still a hydrocarbon. That means, it still contributes to sea level rise, worsening storms, refugee crises, overseas war, epic drought, and more. Not only that, our means of extracting natural gas — fracking — is linked to cancer, earthquakes, and contaminated groundwater. A Pennsylvania company was just ordered to pay $4.2 million in damages to two families for contaminating their well through fracking. Yes, this is the business Shell wants to be in.

And it makes sense for them to acknowledge climate change, at least financially. As DesmogUK points out, “Last May, the oil company’s shareholders voted unanimously in favour of a resolution that forced Shell to consider the possibility of a 2C world in its forecasting. Until that time Shell had been using a 4C to 6C global warming scenario to guide future business operations (twice the level of warming considered safe for the planet).” Besides, the price of oil is at record lows, and Shell lost $7 billion in a failed attempt to find oil in Alaska’s Chukchi Sea the past few years — a move that has reportedly forced the coming retirement of CEO Marvin Odum, a Shell employee for over 30 years. In a recent Washington Post interview (which you should read in its entirety), Odum said:

“Through geology and seismic surveys, we had reduced the risk to where the only way to reduce it more was to put down a well,” Odum said, adding that Shell put it “where we thought there was the highest prospect” of a discovery. If they had been correct, Odum said, the reward could have been fields as rich in oil as the Gulf of Mexico, which produces 1.6 million barrels a day worth $22 billion a year, even at today’s depressed prices.

“The size of the prize was always big enough to take that next step and find out for sure,” he said.

While Shell’s decision to pull out of the Arctic was widely heralded by environmental groups, it probably had less to do with bad press created by protests than it did the bottom line. That’s the thing about oil companies: Some, like Exxon, are actively destructive, and some, like Shell, may be in denial. But we’ve yet to find an oil company that’s substantially different.

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State Senate wants climate change funds used for nuke power

State Senate budget taps climate cash to save operations

By Brian Nearing    Updated 7:56 am, Wednesday, March 16, 2016


FILE — Indian Point nuclear plant in Peekskill, N.Y., July 29, 2010. (Tony Cenicola/The New York Times)  Photo: TONY CENICOLA  Albany

Republican state lawmakers in the Senate are pushing a $100 million bailout of the state’s nuclear power industry using funds from a climate change program meant to cut greenhouse gases from power plants.

The Senate’s budget 2016-17 budget bill in response to Gov. Andrew Cuomo‘s plan calls for $100 million from the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative for “the benefit of nuclear facilities that are not currently financially viable but remain operational.”

The proposal comes as state energy officials continue crafting a Cuomo-backed clean energy plan (Clean Energy Standard) that would include unspecified subsidies to financially stressed nuclear plants, which currently provide about 30 percent of the state’s total electricity.

Cuomo’s plan calls for the state to produce half of its electric power from renewable sources by 2030. Since RGGI was launched seven years ago, the program has collected more than $925 million from power plant owners to cover greenhouse gas emissions that drive climate change.

In recent years, historically low natural gas prices have driven down wholesale electricity costs as plant owners switched to that fuel, making nuclear power less competitive financially.

Cuomo’s nuclear gambit comes as he has tried, so far unsuccessfully, to convince Entergy Corp., owners of the money-losing James A. FitzPatrick nuclear plant near Oswego, to shutter the 40-year-old facility by January. Cuomo wants Entergy to close its other nuclear plant, Indian Point, on the Hudson River in Westchester County, which provides about 40 percent of all nuclear-generated power in the state.

Backers of the FitzPatrick plant welcomed the Senate funding move, while some clean energy advocates expressed strong misgivings.

“It’s heartening to see such support included in the state’s budget proposals, and also why we need to work together to implement Gov. Cuomo’s Clean Energy Standard in a timely manner to ensure the long-term viability of these plants,” said L. Michael Treadwell, CEO of the Oswego County Industrial Development Agency and a member of Upstate Energy Jobs, a regional coalition of political, civic and labor groups.

…(read more).

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Is global warming speeding up? | The Environment Show

Posted on March 16, 2016 by Phil Stubbs

New figures released by NASA have stunned the world’s climate scientists. The average global temperature for February this year has smashed the previous record. A record set only the month before.

This comes on the back of the warmest year on record 2015, which broke the previous record set in 2014.

…(read more).

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Eastern U.S. forests more vulnerable to drought than before 1800s

Since the 1930s, the composition of forests in the region has changed markedly. Drought-sensitive, fire-intolerant tree species, such as maple, birch and hemlock, have become more prominent, and drought-resistant, fire-adapted species, such as oak, hickory and pine, have declined. Image: Marc Abrams / Penn State

By Jeff Mulhollem March 8, 2016

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — Over thousands of years, most forests in the eastern United States evolved with frequent fire, which promoted tree species and ecosystems that were both fire and drought resistant. In little more than a century, humans upset that balance, suggest researchers, who blame the change, in part, on the well-meaning efforts of Smokey Bear.

Since the 1930s, the composition of forests in the region has changed markedly, according to Marc Abrams, professor of forest ecology and physiology at Penn State. Drought-sensitive, fire-intolerant tree species, such as maple, birch and hemlock, have become more prominent, and drought-resistant, fire-adapted species, such as oak, hickory and pine, have declined.

“Eastern forests are changing in a way that we haven’t seen for thousands of years, and this is basically because they have gone through major changes in disturbance regimes and land-use history,” Abrams said. “The change to less drought resistance — part of a process known as mesophication — has serious implications in a warming climate, which portends more frequent and more severe droughts.”

The trend toward less drought resistance in Eastern forests began about 140 years ago with the advent of clear cutting to build and fuel a rapidly industrializing society. This was followed by catastrophic fires that burned most of the trees that remained on the region’s landscape. Forests began to regrow as before, but in the 1940s the Smokey Bear fire suppression regime began.

…(read more)

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Environmental events from the Department of Economics

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