Continued global warming poses a risk of rapid, drastic changes in some human and natural systems, a scientific panel warned Tuesday, citing the possible collapse of polar sea ice, the potential for a mass extinction of plant and animal life and the threat of immense dead zones in the ocean.
The "good" news:
At the same time, some worst-case fears about climate change that have entered the popular imagination can be ruled out as unlikely, at least over the next century, the panel found. These include a sudden belch of methane from the ocean or the Arctic that would fry the planet, as well as a shutdown of the heat circulation in the Atlantic Ocean that would chill nearby land areas — the fear on which the 2004 movie “The Day After Tomorrow” was loosely based.
To recap: Ugh.
Christian Nightmares posted this disturbing video of politicians using the Bible to argue against climate change.
Ha ha ha ha ha ha. (Sob!)
Donald Shoup, a professor of urban planning at UCLA and author of The High Cost of Free Parking, has often argued that the cost of parking is regulated by the state and not the market, and as a consequence is artificially cheap. One could argue, however, from a Keynesian point that the state is providing a platform for economic activity, and so the subsidy is in fact a public investment that benefits all at the end of the day. But Shoup shows again and again that the terribly high cost of making and maintaining parking is not only hard to recover by this economic activity but it's also shared by those who do not use cars. If you own/use a car or not, you are going to pay for parking one way or another.
With that in mind, we turn to this recent post about a report that exposes the hidden costs of suburban sprawl:
According to the report, existing neighbourhoods in major cities around the world end up subsidizing new developments. In addition, town councils are not considering the cost of roads, community centres, police and fire services that will have to be operated and maintained long after these new communities are built.
“This is about affordability. People are going to go where they can get (the real estate) they want at an affordable cost. What we need to do is take away the artificial subsidies and make sure growth is paying for growth,” Thompson said. “Planners and a growing number of politicians are now aware of the hidden costs of sprawl but the policies and the data they need to calculate the price of those developments has not caught up.”
In addition to economic costs, studies show that urban sprawl is one of the major contributors to air pollution, leading to added health issues. It also contributes to climate change, loss of farmland and natural ecosystems.
If the province of Ontario has its way, 2014 will be the last year that coal will be burned in its plants. Ever.
Last week, the premier of Ontario, Kathleen Wynne, announced the closure of three of the province’s coal-burning facilities: the Lambton and Atikokan, which have already ceased operation and the Nanticoke Generating Station, which is expected to follow. The Nanticoke is the largest of its kind in North America.
The closures are all part of a systematic conversion to biomass energy, and what Ontario terms as its “commitment to end climate change.” A significant push for that effort will come from the introduction of the Ending Coal for Cleaner Air Act, which will essentially outlaw the use of coal for power generation.
Good job, Ontario! We'll try to follow your example in, oh, eighty years or so.
File this one away for when Rob McKenna inevitably attempts to make his political comeback:
Former Washington Attorney General Rob McKenna, now practicing law in the Seattle office of the multi-national Orrick law firm, has prepared formal comments for the states of Montana and North Dakota, challenging Washington state's constitutional right to require a sweeping environmental review of coal export terminal impacts.
"The States (Montana and North Dakota) strongly believe that such regulatory decisions are outside the scope of Washington’s authority under the U.S. Constitution, and improperly burden international commerce," the McKenna-authored comments say.
That's right: McKenna is working for the coal industry, attempting to block the state from even studying the environmental impact of coal export terminals. Because he's a different kind of Republican.
Earlier this year, northwest environmentalists and an impressive array of elected officials lobbied the US Army Corps of Engineers and the State Department of Ecology to thoroughly review all of the environmental and economic impacts before permitting the world's largest coal export terminal to be built at Cherry Point, outside of Bellingham, Washington. The activists' efforts were met with mixed results: The feds basically said "Haha, nope!" while the department of ecology was like, "sure thing, friend."
Now they're doing it all over again, this time targeting another coal export terminal proposed for Longview, Washington. Like the Gateway Pacific Terminal at Cherry Point, the proposed $643 million Millennium Bulk Terminals facility will take coal arriving by train from Montana and Wyoming and ship it to Asia.
Today, 21 state legislators, led by Representative Reuven Carlyle (D-36), submitted an eight-page letter asking that county, state, and federal agencies thoroughly review the cumulative impacts of plunking a terminal along the Columbia river. Specifically, they ask that agencies take into account the proposed Cherry Point terminal (and another terminal planned for Oregon), when reviewing environmental and economic impacts—including congested rail crossings, impacts to current freight and passenger rail, traffic impacts, effects on property values along rail lines, net employment changes, noise, air pollution, and greenhouse gas effects, among other things.
From the letter:
In addition to the discrete impacts list above, we strongly urge the agencies to analyze the effects of the MBTL project cumulatively, in light of existing coal export proposals and other potential bulk fuel export projects in the Pacific Northwest. These additional projects will almost certainly have similar impacts (in type if not in extent), and the potential aggregate impacts should be analyzed in the environmental review process. The very nature of a comprehensive assessment requires a cumulative assessment that accurately identifies and analyzes the externalities of multi-site proposals. Only through a comprehensive and thorough review process can all affected parties understand and assess the scope of the project.
It seems like a pretty obvious ask, and yet judging by the feds' reaction to just this kind of thorough, data-driven review process at Cherry Point, it still needs to be said. Repeatedly. Today is the last day to submit public testimony on the terminal proposal—they've already received over 165,000 public comments. You can pile on your thoughts over here.
No one attended the anti-GMO labeling party at the Westin Hotel, and no one (no member of the public) celebrated, cheered, clapped at the announcement of I-522's defeat. At around 9 pm, a big paycheck coldly walked into the conference room and made a few stern statements to empty seats about how the public (the people) had spoken, stepped down from the stage, said a few more stern words to a couple of cameras, and left with two other big paychecks. This was the most bizarre political event/victory I have ever seen. And I thought I had seen everything.
Anti-522 campaign member Mark Funk makes a phone call in an empty press room at the Westin Hotel #WAelect pic.twitter.com/hcUHye5kHj
— Alisa Zaira Reznick (@AlisaReznick) November 6, 2013
I agree with the argument that there has to be a huge lifestyle change in the West (aggressive social engineering) if the current climate crisis is to be met with the needed amount of seriousness, but something tells me that the solution of small homes has the same substance as the solution of small cars...
Two-thirds of Americans (67%) say there is solid evidence that the earth has been getting warmer over the last few decades, a figure that has changed little in the past few years. While partisan differences over climate change remain substantial, Republicans face greater internal divisions over this issue than do Democrats.That number, however, drops to 44 percent if the warming is attributed to humans, and down to 9 percent if the person asked about human attribution happens to be in the Tea Party.
At a speech about health care in Boston this afternoon, a group of activists (I tried to find a statement identifying them, but couldn't) interrupted President Obama, yelling in unison, "Mr. President, [inaudible] Keystone XL! Stop climate change! For our generation! Stop the pipeline!"
Here's the video (via Mediaite):
Obama smiled, laughed, and replied mockingly: "That is the wrong rally. We had the climate change rally back in the summer. This is the health care rally."
If George W. Bush was still president and responded that way, he'd be torn to shreds by liberals for being so callous about the environment. I wonder if anyone in the sycophantic crowd who cheered Obama's response will come to regret that, say, by around the time Maldives succumbs to higher, warmer sea levels. The president, meanwhile, could stand to take a hint from Mayor Mike McGinn and get serious about divesting from fossil fuels. McGinn received a warm reception when he spoke at a rally opposing the Keystone XL pipeline last month. Obama is expected to decide whether to approve the controversial pipeline, which carries oil from tar sands in Canada, next year.
Todd Woody at Quartz notices that California, Oregon, and Washington are leading the Pacific Rim into a new age of environmental awareness. Every so often, it's good to remember that we live on the best coast.
Slog tipper Ansel directed me to this fascinating Verge article about Tucker, a dog trained to sniff out fecal deposits left by killer whales around the San Juan Islands:
The dog is steering the boat, and the humans on board are pretty sure he’s leading it astray.
Tucker, a nine-year-old black lab mix, is an improbable character in a high-stakes detective story: the case of the declining orcas. He’s sniffing for a needle in a haystack — a small plastic container filled with the feces of a killer whale, floating somewhere in the vastness of the Strait of Juan de Fuca in northwestern Washington state. With his body language — pacing across the bow, leaning over its edge, the angle of his nose — he tells his handler, Liz Seely, and Deborah Giles, who sits behind the wheel, where to steer.
He seems firm on the scent. He’s directing the boat in the opposite direction of where we floated the sample before motoring away to set up this test of his abilities. “Oh no, this is so embarrassing,” Seely later admitted to thinking.
But suddenly, there it is ahead of us: the pink plastic bowl, bobbing on the surface of the water, just where Tucker knew it would be. The wind and current have moved it far from where we placed it, but Tucker picked up the scent from more than half a mile away. He’s rewarded with applause and his favorite thing in the world: a few minutes of play with a ball. He barks, whips it around, throws it overboard. He’s so overcome he’s practically dancing.
But this isn’t a game. The whales whose poop Tucker pursues across the Salish Sea belong to an endangered population, the Southern Residents — a genetically and behaviorally distinct group of orcas that feeds here each summer and whose population is at its lowest in years. The scientists on board believe that Tucker’s impressive olfactory feats may help them figure out what’s wrong with the whales, and what can be done to help them.
The story is fascinating. Go read it!
Some news from the north:
New research shows that average summer temperatures in the Canadian Arctic over the last century are the highest in the last 44,000 years, and perhaps the highest in 120,000 years.
Meanwhile, the latest complaint from global warming skeptics is that the surface of the earth isn't warming fast enough. That complaint is debunked here.
Well, this is horrifying.
Earlier this month, Mike Stark of DeSmogBlog caught an executive from Arch Coal guffawing with Lauri Hennessey, a public relations flack for an industry group called the Alliance for Northwest Jobs and Exports, in what they thought was a private conversation about Seattle's opposition to coal trains.
Here's what's at stake, per Cienna's reporting: They want nine trains towing uncovered cars full of toxic coal to hurtle through Seattle each day, transporting the stuff to a terminal built on a fragile Native American burial site north of here, for export to China.
Needless to say, the project is an environmental and public health catastrophe. Local officials from Seattle and King County are opposed to it across the board.
Hennessey and Co. seem merely amused by Seattle's hostility to the plan. They resolve, after having a good laugh, to "make it happen" anyway. In Seattle, "you can't say you don't believe in [climate change]," Hennessey explains, chuckling at how "interesting" Seattle is. As if believing in the scientific consensus on global warming makes the people of Seattle strange and backward.
And they all laugh at how she once worked for the Environmental Protection Agency. "I pull that out in the right crowds, because in the Northwest, that's a good thing, right?" Hennessy jokes. "You're an insider, a narc!" says another Arch Coal guy. Haw haw! Hear for yourself:
To be clear: In their world, climate change is not a real thing. And working for the EPA is like working for the enemy, almost like being a snitch.
It's smug (toxic!) wrongness all around. "We're depending on you, Lauri," Matt Ferguson, Arch Coal's Senior Vice President for Thermal Coal Marketing, concludes.
Lauri Hennessey and Matt Ferguson, the jig is up. You guys have zero credibility. Keep your coal trains (and your douchebag selves) the fuck out of Seattle.
Remember last November, when pictures surfaced of a diving pair emerging from a popular Puget Sound dive spot with a squirming giant Pacific octopus in their arms—a live creature that they promptly threw in the back of their truck—and the internet howled in collective fury?
Good news! The Washington Department of Fish & Wildlife has implemented a new policy protecting giant Pacific octopuses in seven Puget Sound diving sites. The policy took effect Monday, October 6, following months of public meetings and input from a citizen advisory committee.
Octopus harvesting is now prohibited these sites, which together encompass 1,300 acres of habitat:
• Deception Pass north of Oak Harbor
• Seacrest Park Coves 1, 2 and 3 near Alki Point in West Seattle
• Alki Beach Junk Yard in West Seattle
• Three Tree Point in Burien
• Redondo Beach in Des Moines
• Les Davis Marine Park adjacent to the Les Davis Fishing Pier in Tacoma
• Days Island Wall in Tacoma
I went a couple weekends ago. It's a sanctuary in Tenino Washington, and it is excellent. Read more here. The guided walking tour is a must because you learn so much about each individual wolf. Many of them are rescued from being chained up, and nearly dead. They're having a fundraiser this weekend. And/or you can adopt a wolf, any ole day of the week. My friend, photographer Annie Musselman, has a beautiful series of photos of them on her website. A few more of my own, less beautiful photos after the jump...
The AP wants you to know that your special delicate snowflake butthole is causing a problem:
BEMUS POINT, New York (AP) — Increasingly popular bathroom wipes - pre-moistened towelettes that are often advertised as flushable - are being blamed for creating clogs and backups in sewer systems around the U.S.
Wastewater authorities say wipes may go down the toilet, but even many labeled flushable aren't breaking down as they course through the sewer system. That's costing some municipalities millions of dollars to dispatch crews to unclog pipes and pumps and to replace and upgrade machinery.
Quit it with the "flushable" wipes. You're not an infant. And if you are an infant who is somehow reading Slog right now, you should be throwing the flushable wipes away with your diapers, anyway.
The endless nonsense that is today's GOP....
As historic floods of “biblical” proportions continue to ravage Colorado, President Obama signed an emergency declaration on Sunday — a move that was encouraged by a bipartisan letter last week from the state’s nine-member Congressional delegation. But the four Republican Congressmen who are now supporting disaster relief for their own state were among those voting earlier this year against the emergency aid funding for Superstorm Sandy victims on the East Coast.
Colorado Republican Reps. Mike Coffman, Cory Gardner, Doug Lamborn, and Scott Tipton joined their delegation in asking the president to send emergency funds to help their constituents combat and recover from the more than 14 inches of rain that have flooded Colorado this month.
Got some burned out compact fluorescent (CFL) bulbs lying around, and you don't know how to dispose of them? Recycle them, and get a replacement bulb for free!
Seattle City Light is partnering with Seattle Public Utilities to bring special energy-saving and CFL recycling events to stores throughout Seattle. Bring your burned-out compact fluorescent light bulbs (CFL) and we’ll replace them with free CFLs (limit five).
CFL Recycle & Save Dates, Locations and Times:
9/14/13 Home Depot 2701 Utah Ave S 11am-3pm
9/28/13 Home Depot 7345 Delridge Way SW 11am-3pm
9/29/13 Lowes 12525 Aurora N 11am-3pm
10/12/13 Lowes 2700 Rainier Ave 11am-3pm
10/13/13 Home Depot 11616 Aurora Avenue N 11am-3pm
10/19/13 McLendon Hardware 10210 16th Ave SW, White Center 11am-3pm
10/26/13 Home Depot 1335 N 205th, Shoreline 11am-3pm
CFLs contain small amounts of mercury, so they can't just be thrown in the trash. And while free recycling drop-offs abound, whoever gets around to that? That's why incentives like this make so much sense.
I gotta say, our local utilities have done a great job over the years subsidizing and incentivizing my own green behavior. About 15 years ago, I took advantage of a program that allowed me to trade in my old gas mower for a heavily discounted electric one, plus a free composting bin, and I've never gone back. My first CFLs were heavily subsidized by City Light, and I was hooked. Likewise my new LED bulbs (they work great with dimmer switches—yay).
Seattle has some of the highest recycling and composting rates in the nation, a testament both to the civic virtues of the region, and to the responsible and effective management of our publicly-owned utilities.
If you have seen this already (and it is making the rounds), ignore the post...
See the sad state of things is in this Seattle Times report:
Ack—autoplay. Video now after the jump.
Via Americablog. Says John:
Beyond brilliant. Greenpeace snuck two remote controlled protest signs into the winner’s podium at the Grand Prix finals, which are sponsored by Shell oil. The signs lay dormant for two weeks, until the winners took to the dais, and then slowly one rose up in front of everyone. Then, someone tries to take it down, and as he walks away, another rises up…. LOL
The Helsinki Plant Tram:
A new study found that climate change may cause people to be more violent. The study draws a link between increased rates of domestic violence, assault and other violent crimes and a warming climate and says that aggression can be associated with higher temperatures.
Meanwhile, back at Fukushima:
Japan is poised to declare a toxic water leak at the Fukushima nuclear plant a level 3 "serious incident," its gravest warning since the massive 2011 earthquake and tsunami that sent three reactors into meltdown.
... Scientists have pointed to high radiation levels in the waters off the plant for more than a year as evidence of problems with the company's efforts to contain the water.
In July, TEPCO admitted that radioactive groundwater was leaking into the Pacific Ocean from the plant, even though an underground barrier was built to seal in the water, underscoring a growing sense of crisis at the site.
Last night I was chatting with a neighbor who is in the business of providing independent oversight of the Hanford cleanup (it wasn't an interview, so I'll leave him nameless for now), and he seemed quite distressed at what is going on at Fukushima. Things are so bad, he nervously laughed, that they've resorted to calling in "experts" from Hanford to advise TEPCO on the cleanup. You know Hanford, where our experts have so far spent tens of billions of dollars cleaning up nothing.
Worse, he says, TEPCO is preparing to manually remove 1,230 irradiated spent fuel rods from the open pools at the crippled facility. If they screw up just once, he suggested, and the fuel goes critical, we could end up with a nuclear disaster so big that it poisons the Northern Hemisphere.
I'm rather fond of the Northern Hemisphere.
Beverly McGuire saw the warning signs before the town well went dry: sand in the toilet bowl, the sputter of air in the tap, a pump working overtime to no effect. But it still did not prepare her for the night last month when she turned on the tap and discovered the tiny town where she had made her home for 35 years was out of water.Indeed, some bone-stupid farmer gave the oil companies permission to extract water from his property for a fee. He stupidly watched them taking the water away in trucks. Now there's no water, no end of the drought is in sight, and the stupid man's farm animals can't live without water. Texas.
"The day that we ran out of water I turned on my faucet and nothing was there and at that moment I knew the whole of Barnhart was down the tubes," she said, blinking back tears. "I went: 'dear God help us. That was the first thought that came to mind."
Across the south-west, residents of small communities like Barnhart are confronting the reality that something as basic as running water, as unthinking as turning on a tap, can no longer be taken for granted.
Three years of drought, decades of overuse and now the oil industry's outsize demands on water for fracking are running down reservoirs and underground aquifers. And climate change is making things worse.
Two Pennsylvania children were banned from ever talking about fracking, Suzanne Goldenberg at the Guardian reports:
The sweeping gag order was imposed under a $750,000 settlement between the Hallowich family and Range Resources Corp, a leading oil and gas driller. It provoked outrage on Monday among environmental campaigners and free speech advocates.
The settlement, reached in 2011 but unsealed only last week, barred the Hallowichs' son and daughter, who were then aged 10 and seven, from ever discussing fracking or the Marcellus Shale, a leading producer in America's shale gas boom.
How is this acceptable? Hell, how is this legal? Are children allowed to enter into these kind of agreements? What if they're asked about fracking in school? Do they have to fail or take an incomplete? Or, no, of course they won't be asked about fracking in Pennsylvania public schools; that would mean local governments would want students to think critically about a lucrative regional industry. Never mind. Carry on!
I went camping this weekend, and unexpectedly got an opportunity to blast around a Washington lake on a jet ski. It was *unexpectedly* SO FUN. It was even still fun when I flipped, like in this video at the 0:13 mark. I couldn't stop laughing. My question is, was I wrong to love it?
Legislators and environmental activists opposing the development of a Gateway Pacific coal terminal outside of Bellingham have reason to celebrate: After gathering feedback from 125,000 Washington residents on a project that would make our state the #1 coal exporter on the planet, the State Department of Ecology announced today that it will study a broad and damning array of environmental impacts before determining whether to grant the coal export terminal the permits it needs to move forward with development.
These factors include: impacts to other rail transportation, human health, greenhouse gases, and extensive analysis of the projects’ nearby impacts on wetlands, shorelines, water and air quality, cultural and archeological resources, fish and wildlife, even noise and vibration impacts.
As Sightline's Eric de Place plainly puts it, this is bad news for the coal industry:
Of those, two stand to be particularly damaging for would-be coal exporters: rail impacts and greenhouse gas emissions. There’s not a lot of wiggle room with either of those elements.
First, burning the 48 million tons of coal proposed for export at the terminal annually would release roughly 100 million tons of carbon dioxide, a staggering figure that amounts to as much carbon pollution as every activity in the state of Washington combined. In other words, it’s a clear environmental disaster that would overshadow every other effort the state has made to reduce climate-changing emissions.
Second, moving that much coal to a terminal will create congestion throughout the region. There’s simply no way around the math. In Seattle, for example, both Sightline and the traffic analysis firm Parametrix have confirmed that new coal export shipments would completely close major center city streets by an additional 1 to 3 hours every day, 365 days per year.
Meanwhile, state Representative Reuven Carlyle (D-36), who's been an outspoken critic and organizer against the coal terminal, calls today's announcement proof that "sometimes math matters. Facts matter. Details matter. This is proof that the state of Washington is not going to punt on conducting an unbelievably rigorous, serious, and nonpolitical review of this 19th century proposal. We're going to do a deep dive on every issue and present policy makers with the data to make good decisions. This is what we say we want government to do, and with the federal government retreating into the abyss of impotence, it's really cool to have the state government step up."
Carlyle expounds on today's victory, and contrasts it with that lack of federal leadership, on his livejournal:
The troubling story behind the headlines, however, is the lack of policy thought leadership by the federal government. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, as the lead federal agency, is focusing under NEPA on a narrow examination of impacts solely under their direct authority. At a time when the federal government is virtually paralyzed by the institutional grip of inaction–despite President Obama’s call for proposals to be examined through a measurable environmental framework–it is jolting to recognize that no broad-based federal assessment, review or examination is occurring on this massive interstate commerce issue. The federal government’s deafening silence is a clarion call of action to Olympia, Salem, Boise, Helena, Cheyenne and other state capitals to dust off the 10th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution itself to defend our individual and even regional interests against a lethargic federal bureaucracy.
The takeaway from today’s announcement? This decision lays the groundwork for project delays and litigation, all but creating a lightning rod for public opposition. Go hug a tree! Buy a wetland a drink! This is very good news.