Category: Environment

Seismic blasting once again threatens East Coast environment

Defying local communities, Trump seeks to open area for oil drilling

dolphins Deepwater Horizon spill
Dolphins, whales and other ocean critters along the East Coast may face an onslaught of potentially deadly noise pollution as the Trump administration seeks to open the area for seismic blasting to search for oil. @bberwyn photo.

Staff Report

In the bizarro alt-reality universe of Trumpistan, there’s nothing like celebrating the world’s oceans by opening them up for oil drilling — and that’s just what the oil-stained kleptocrat wants to do by authorizing five companies to search for oil off the Atlantic Coast — from Florida to Delaware — using loud seismic airgun blasts that hurt whales, dolphins and other animals. The exploration activities are the first step to opening the Atlantic to new oil drilling.

The move comes even as communities up and down the Atlantic Seaboard have said loud and clear they are not interested. Nearly 100 municipalities from New Jersey to Florida have adopted resolutions rejecting seismic blasting off the East Coast. And more than 40,000 local businesses and business associations have publicly opposed it, citing threats to marine life and local economies. Continue reading “Seismic blasting once again threatens East Coast environment”

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Sunday set: The Paris climate agreement won’t die

Dont’t despair — act and vote!


The president’s decision to start pulling the U.S. out of the Paris climate agreement was bitter disappointment for many, but it’s important to remember that the signing of the accord wasn’t an end. It marked the beginning of a long and difficult path that was sure to be fraught with challenges along the way. It was also designed to withstand major shocks, including the pull-out of a major signatory like the U.S. After all, this isn’t the first time it happened. The U.S. also failed to follow through on the Kyoto climate protocol. Read about how the Paris agreement was designed with this history in mind in one of my recent stories for Pacific Standard.

It’s also worth remembering that it will take several years for the withdrawal. In fact, the process won’t be complete until the day after the next U.S. presidential election, so perhaps his wrong-headed move can galvanize climate activists to focus on what matters — electing a candidate who will not only stay involved in global climate policy, but who will act decisively on the domestic front and fight for the changes needed in energy policy and many other areas so that the U.S. can actually deliver on climate action.

To me, Trump’s Paris speech was dangerous beyond climate policy. The language he used to justify his decision sounded a lot like the language Hitler used in the 1930 to rally support for his nationalist policies, and Trump’s attack on global cooperation could end up going far beyond climate. Read more on this topic here.

There’s a lot at stake, especially for the countries that can least afford to deal with global warming impacts. During the most recent climate talks in Bonn, the group of most vulnerable countries made it clear that it is a matter of survival. I reported on their concerns here.

And yes, there is reason to be hopeful. While Trump pursues unrealistic goals of dialing back U.S. policy to the age of coal, most other countries, especially India and China, are racing ahead. Their investments in renewable energy are very likely to drive the shape of global energy markets in the coming decades. More here.

More coral bleaching forecast this summer

Relentless ocean heat takes toll on reefs worldwide

Parts of the Northern Hemisphere oceans could once again be hit by coral reef bleaching this summer.
Bleaching caused by global warming is overwhelming many coral reefs. Photo via NOAA.

Staff Report

There’s been little let-up in the global wave of coral bleaching that’s been ongoing in various parts of the world since 2014, according to an update from NOAA’s Coral Reef Watch program. To date, the bleaching is the most widespread and damaging on record, including mass bleaching in areas where it’s never been seen before — the northern Great Barrier Reed, Kiribati and Jarvis Island.

And more of the same is expected in in the next few months as the Northern Hemisphere moves toward summer. Based on forecasts for the next two to three months, bleaching is likely in the eastern Pacific. Widespread coral bleaching with significant mortality continues in the Samoas (where bleaching of both shallow and deeper corals has now been confirmed) but is expected to dissipate shortly.

After extensive damage to the Great Barrier Reef, ocean temperatures finally cooled of in April, giving a respite to the corals that survived. Similarly, the corals around Florida also got some relief in the past few months. Get the full update at the NOAA coral reef watch page.

 

 

 

Bat-killing white-nose syndrome found in Alabama cave

A colony of southeastern bats, or Myotis austroriparius. As of 2017, the species joins eight other hibernating bat species in North America that are afflicted with the deadly bat fungal disease known as white-nose syndrome.(Credit: Pete Pattavina, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. Public domain.)

Inexorable spread of deadly disease continues

Staff Report

The deadly fungal white-nose syndrome has been detected in a new species of bat in the southeastern U.S. for the first time.

Following winter surveys, the bat-killing disease was found in the southeastern Myotis. To date, nice species of hibernating bats have been identified as susceptible to the disease.

The diseased bat was found in Shelby County, Alabama, at Lake Purdy Corkscrew Cave, owned by the Birmingham Water Works and managed by the Southeastern Cave Conservancy, Inc., a nonprofit organization dedicated to cave acquisition, conservation and management. WNS in the southeastern bat was confirmed in the laboratory by the U.S. Geological Survey.

A fungus, Pseudogymnoascus destructans, or Pd, causes WNS, which affects many, but not all bat species that come into contact with it. Of those affected, bat populations have declined by more than 90 percent. Continue reading “Bat-killing white-nose syndrome found in Alabama cave”

U.S. beekeepers lost a third of their colonies last year

Experts say more vigilance is paying off, but loss rate still high

Bee pollinating a native mallow species in Lower Austria
Got pollen? @bberwyn photo.

Staff Report

U.S. beekeepers said they lost 33 percent of their honey bee colonies during the year spanning April 2016 to April 2017. Rates of both summer and winter losses declined from previous years, with winter losses at the lowest level since the formal survey started in 2007.

The survey asks both commercial and small-scale beekeepers to track the survival rates of their honey bee colonies, is conducted each year by the nonprofit Bee Informed partnership in collaboration with the Apiary Inspectors of America. Continue reading “U.S. beekeepers lost a third of their colonies last year”

Adding insult to injury, U.S. taxpayers subsidize climate-disrupting fossil fuel industry with $7 billion per year

New report breaks down public cost of supporting oil and coal

fracking rig in Colorado
Oil, gas and coal development on public lands is a bad deal for U.S. taxpayers. @bberwyn photo.

Staff Report

The as-yet barely checked use of fossil fuels is rapidly disrupting the global climate and to add insult to injury, taxpayers around the world are supporting the damage with huge subsidies, as well as tax breaks and loopholes.

A new report from watchdog groups last week helps detail exactly how that plays out in the U.S., where the subsidies may total as much as $7 billion per year. Additionally, the U.S. government is holding about $35 billion in public liabilities for drilling in public waters of the Gulf of Mexico. Continue reading “Adding insult to injury, U.S. taxpayers subsidize climate-disrupting fossil fuel industry with $7 billion per year”

Southern Colorado Plateau has dried 17 percent since 1985

New study projects impacts for world’s drylands

Hikers enjoying the view at Colorado National Monument, near Grand Junction. Researchers say recreation economies in the world’s drier zones are likely to take a big hit from global warming in the next few decades. @bberwyn photo.

Staff Report

Global warming is bad enough on its own for the world’s drylands, but when you add in the impacts of population growth, development and the increasing demand for water, the future looks downright grim.

The end result will be conditions that are detrimental to the recreation economy, wildlife habitat, water availability and other resources in hyper-arid landscapes, according to a recent paper published in Ecosphere. Drylands are of concern because broad-scale changes in these systems have the potential to affect 36 percent of the world’s human population. Continue reading “Southern Colorado Plateau has dried 17 percent since 1985”