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The distinct burden of being a climate scientist

STORY BY DAVID CORN; PHOTOS BY DEVIN YALKINJULY 8, 2019



On election night 2016, Kim Cobb, a professor at the School of Earth and Atmospheric Sciences at Georgia Tech, was on Christmas Island, the world’s largest ring-shaped coral reef atoll, about 1,300 miles south of Hawaii. A climate scientist, she was collecting coral skeletons to produce estimates of past ocean temperatures. She had been taking these sorts of research trips for two decades, and over recent years she had witnessed about 85 percent of the island’s reef system perish due to rising ocean temperatures. “I was diving with tears in my eyes,” she recalls.



In a row house made of cinder blocks on the tiny island in the middle of the Pacific Ocean, she monitored the American election results, using a satellite uplink that took several minutes to load a page. When she saw Donald Trump’s victory, she felt shock and soon descended into severe depression. “I had the firm belief that Washington would act on climate change and would be acting soon,” the 44-year-old Cobb says. “When Trump was elected, it came crashing down.”

Continue reading at: It’s the End of the World as They Know It – Mother Jones
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PFAS (per- and poly- fluorinated alkyl substances) comprise a group of over 5,000 chemicals, many of which are toxic to humans and wildlife and last so long in the environment they have been referred to as ‘forever chemicals’. PFAS are used in numerous consumer products to confer waterproof, greaseproof, stain-proof and non-stick properties. They are also used for industrial purposes such as fire fighting foam. It is now becoming clear that PFAS are in the food, water, air, and bodies of many people around the world. The few PFAS that have been thoroughly studied show adverse impacts on the endocrine, immune, and metabolic systems.



Learn more about PFAS chemicals using the following resources provided by TEDX and our partners.

Read more at: PFAS Resources — The Endocrine Disruption Exchange
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When fishers communicate openly, coral reefs win.



Fishers who keep their lines of communication open — even when they are competing for the same fish — end up with healthier fishing grounds. Researchers interviewed almost 650 fishers in Kenya and found that those who shared info about when and how they work had more fish and higher biodiversity in their waters. “The hardest thing in conservation is getting a bunch of disparate people to cooperate to ensure the perpetuation of a resource that they all depend on,” says ecologist Jack Kittinger. “When that happens, lo and behold, you’ve got better ecological success.”


When Kenyan reef fishers who are in competition for the same fish species openly discuss tools and techniques and sort through problems, their cooperation results in healthier reef ecosystems. Photo by RZAF_Images/Alamy Stock Photo



Continue reading at: The Cure to the Tragedy of the Commons? Cooperation | Hakai Magazine
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If global trends continue for another fortnight, it will beat previous two-year-old record

Record temperatures across much of the world over the past two weeks could make July the hottest month ever measured on Earth, according to climate scientists.
The past fortnight has seen freak heat in the Canadian Arctic, crippling droughts in Chennai and Harare and forest fires that forced thousands of holidaymakers to abandon campsites in southern France and prompted the air force in Indonesia to fly cloud-busting missions in the hope of inducing rain.
If the trends of the first half of this month continue, it will beat the previous record from July 2017 by about 0.025C, according to calculations by Karsten Haustein, a climate scientist at the University of Oxford, and others.


Tourists leave the Acropolis on 4 July in Athens, Greece, after it closed because of high temperatures. Photograph: Miloš Bičanski/Getty Images

This follows the warmest-ever June, which was confirmed this week by data from the US space agency Nasa, following Europe’s Copernicus satellite monitoring system.

Continue reading at: July on course to be hottest month ever, say climate scientists | Environment | The Guardian
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Paul Torcellini’s Connecticut home may look like a traditional bungalow. But there’s an important difference.

Torcellini: “It is a zero-energy house. We produce more energy onsite than we consume in the course of a year.”



As an engineer at the National Renewable Energy Lab, Torcellini has seen lots of tiny, zero-energy homes. But he wanted a more conventional size.

Torcellini: “You know, we’re like, we can do this with a family. We can do this taking five showers or baths a day, and all the laundry that goes with it, and four chest freezers so we can grow and store our own food.”

To provide that energy, he installed solar panels. And to keep heating and cooling needs low, he designed the home with south-facing windows and twelve-inch walls that provide tight insulation … all without breaking the bank.

Torcellini says going zero-energy no longer means drastically altering a building’s budget, size, or style. If a community wants to build a zero-energy school, for example …

Torcellini: “You’ll have multiple architects, engineers saying, ‘I can do that, and I can do it at no additional cost.’ So cost is not the excuse anymore. Technology is not the excuse. It’s the will to just do it.”

Learn more baout it here: DOE Tour of Zero: Eastford Farm Bungalow by Paul Torcellini | Department of Energy
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Annotate & Share Your SkyTruth Alerts Map

SkyTruth’s latest update to Alerts adds features that allow subscribers to annotate a map view and share it with co-workers, organizations and interested parties. These additions add to a rich set of features that are unique to online mapping and satellite imagery viewing — all available for free to the public. New annotation features allow subscribers to:
  • Highlight traits found in satellite imagery
  • Measure the area of new development or changes in a habitat’s footprint
  • Add information to a SkyTruth Alerts incident
  • Measure boundary setbacks or the distance between 2 objects
  • Add text to the map in preparation for sharing with others
This is accomplished with a set of tools that can annotate by using shapes (rectangles, circles, polygons), lines, text, markers and measurements. A guide to these tools is available here.
New sharing capabilities allow you to save current map views either as a JPG image or a unique URL. Visit here for a  guide to sharing and some of its limitations.


Continue reading and subscribe at: Annotate
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These news articles and accessible scientific papers explain the latest findings on the 'insect apocalypse.'

Perhaps you remember when a drive in the country meant a windshield covered with the remains of many tiny insects. And you may have noticed that this is no longer always (or even usually) the case. Indeed, you can drive many interstate miles, even in rural areas, without having to clean your windshield to see properly.

(Photo credit: chapstickaddict / Flickr )
Are there really fewer insects than there used to be? Yes, in fact – a lot fewer. Is this drop-off an effect of a warming globe? Partly. We might call it one of the ways in which climate change is a threat multiplier – shifts in temperatures, rainfall, and drought increase the damage caused, for instance, by habitat loss and pesticides.

The drop-off in numbers of insects is also an example of a sliding baseline: Based on their own first-hand observations, young people set their expectations about the world decades later than their parents set theirs, and their parents in turn set theirs decades after their own parents or grandparents did. So those long, slow declines go relatively unnoticed. In the case of insects, which many of us don’t notice except as annoyances, even a faster decline may stay largely unobserved by many.

The best single article to read about all this (and the several recent scientific studies about it) is Brooke Jarvis’s “The Insect Apocalypse is Here” (Nonsubscribers can use one of their monthly free reads.) It is compelling to read, thorough, and rich in both information and human stories.

Continue reading at: What is known about the mysterious disappearance of insects » Yale Climate Connections
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Environmental regulations aren't the reason that coal is falling off the map.
Is environmental extremism causing the decline of the American coal industry? A look at the economics shows that coal has been beaten fair and square in the marketplace by cheaper and cleaner alternatives. The best way to support coal communities is to confront these economic realities, rather than creating a divisive and false narrative about the reasons behind the industry’s challenges.

Talen Energy in June announced the early closure of part of its Montana Colstrip power plant, the sixth-largest source of greenhouse emissions in the U.S. Two of the plant’s four coal-burning units are to be shuttered at the end of this year. The plant, and now its closing, are emblematic of the struggle between the fight to save coal communities and the inevitable economic forces plucking away at coal’s one-time dominance of American energy.
The Colstrip plant has four units, each its own power plant. The two oldest units, Units 1 and 2, are closing in light of insurmountable headwinds. They emit so much pollution that under federal law they are not permitted to operate unless the relatively cleaner units are also running and the net pollution then can be averaged-out. These 43-year-old units are also expensive to run compared to the amount of power they generate, so they are seldom used.
Continue reading at: The 'war on coal' myth » Yale Climate Connections
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WASHINGTON — The Trump administration took a major step to weaken the regulation of toxic chemicals on Thursday when the Environmental Protection Agency announced that it would not ban a widely used pesticide that its own experts have linked to serious health problems in children.

The decision by Andrew R. Wheeler, the E.P.A. administrator, represents a victory for the chemical industry and for farmers who have lobbied to continue using the substance, chlorpyrifos, arguing it is necessary to protect crops.

It was the administration’s second major move this year to roll back or eliminate chemical safety rules. In April, the agency disregarded the advice of its own experts when officials issued a rule that restricted but did not ban asbestos, a known carcinogen. Agency scientists and lawyers had urged the E.P.A. to ban asbestos outright, as do most other industrialized nations.

In making the chlorpyrifos ruling, the E.P.A. said in a statement that the data supporting objections to the use of the pesticide was “not sufficiently valid, complete or reliable.” The agency added that it would continue to monitor the safety of chlorpyrifos through 2022.


A 2018 protest in California after a public hearing on increasing restrictions on the use of the agricultural pesticide chlorpyrifos. CreditCreditMax Whittaker for The New York Times



Continue reading at: E.P.A. Won’t Ban Chlorpyrifos, Pesticide Tied to Children’s Health Problems - The New York Times
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NOAA and its research partners predict that western Lake Erie will experience a harmful algal bloom (HAB) of cyanobacteria this summer that is larger than the mild bloom in 2018. Scientists expect this year’s bloom to measure greater than a 7 on the severity index. The severity index is based on a bloom’s biomass – the amount of its harmful algae – over a sustained period. The largest blooms, 2011 and 2015, were 10 and 10.5, respectively. Last year’s bloom had a severity of 3.6 considered a mild bloom. However, the size of a bloom is not necessarily an indication of how toxic it is. For more information on the projection click here.



Continue reading at: Lake Erie Harmful Algal Bloom

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