Earth to Pruitt: Paris is still on!

EPA chief continues to alienate important allies

This now seems to be a bit of prescient moment during the COP 21 talks in Paris. @bberwyn photo.

By Bob Berwyn

The U.S. government continues to show how out of tune it is with the rest of the world’s leading economic nations with a press release from the EPA claiming that it has “reset” the conversation about climate change to reflect the Trump administration priorities and the “expectation of the American people.”

Apparently, EPA Administrator didn’t get the clear message from scores of American cities and states that responded to Trump’s withdrawal from the Paris climate agreement by forming a sub-national coalition that is aiming to uphold the goals of that agreement. The We Are Still In Group also includes hundreds of counties, universities and businesses committed to the agreement, so all Pruitt is managing to do is to divide the country. Continue reading “Earth to Pruitt: Paris is still on!”

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Sunday Set: Countryside

Fresh air …

Out of the city and into the countryside the past few days, enjoying windswept grain fields, swimming holes, wild berries and ripening fruit trees in mountain orchards. A few scenes from  Upper and Lower Austria in this early summer set. Visit the Summit Voice Sunday Set archive for more travel pics, or head over to our online gallery at FineArt America for a full selection of nature and landscape photography.

Pesticides impair honey bee flying abilities

Nonlethal exposure has significant impacts, new study shows

Exposure to nonlethal levels of neonicotinoid pesticides hampers honey bee flight. @bberwyn photo.

Staff Report

The evidence keeps mounting that pesticides are the main driver of honey bee declines. In a new study, scientists with the University of California San Diego showed that a commonly used neonicotinoid pesticide (thiamethoxam) can significantly impair the ability of otherwise healthy honey bees to fly, raising concerns about how pesticides affect their capacity to pollinate and the long-term effects on the health of honey bee colonies.

Previous research has shown that foraging honey bees that ingested neonicotinoid pesticides, crop insecticides that are commonly used in agriculture, were less likely to return to their home nest, leading to a decrease in foragers. Continue reading “Pesticides impair honey bee flying abilities”

Marine preserves can protect oceans from global warming

Major study shows need for expansion of protected areas

Oceanic birds and birds that rely on coastal habitat face challenges related to climate change. Larger and well-managed marine protected areas would help buffer some of those impacts. @bberwyn photo.

Staff Report

As much as a third of the world’s oceans should be protected to help buffer against long-term climate change impacts, scientists said in a new study, calling for an expansion of protected areas, as well as better management.

Globally, coastal nations have committed to protecting 10 percent of their waters by 2020, but only 3.5 percent of the ocean has been set aside, and less than half of that (1.6 percent) is strongly protected from exploitation.

Results of the study, which evaluated 145 peer-reviewed studies on the impact of marine reserves, is being published this week in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

“Marine reserves cannot halt or completely offset the growing impacts of climate change,” said Oregon State University’s Jane Lubchenco, former National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Administrator and co-author on the study. “But they can make marine ecosystems more resilient to changes and, in some cases, help slow down the rate of climate change. Continue reading “Marine preserves can protect oceans from global warming”

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”

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.