A suggestion from the state capital in Utah, where Republican Representative Jerry Anderson, a former science teacher, wants to redefine pollution. As he told Utah Public Radio:
The climate, always, is changing and the weather is never the same from one day to the next. So, carbon dioxide has been a real culprit but I don’t see it that way. We actually could use twice as much carbon dioxide as we’ve got.
Right. Thankfully, Rep. Anderson's bill needed seven times more votes than it got. It died in committee. Real science right here.
Yes, exactly, it's still a beautiful image...
Last July, the town center of Lac-Megantic in Quebec was practically vaporized, killing 47 people, when a train carrying crude oil extracted from North Dakota's Bakken Shale region derailed. And every day there are one or two trains, carrying the same kind of highly flammable oil in the same unsafe tanker cars like the ones that exploded in Quebec, passing through downtown Seattle.
They go past both sports stadiums and into a tunnel directly under Pike Place Market. If the oil and rail industries get their way, by the time the Seahawks play their opening game at Century Link stadium next September, there could be as many as fifteen explosive oil trains rumbling past the stadium every week, according to estimates from the Sightline Institute.
There's a growing outcry over oil trains—shipment of crude oil by rail nationally has skyrocketed, increasing by more than 42 times from 9,500 carloads in 2008 to an estimated 400,000 carloads last year. But we should be well beyond outcry by now. In December, another oil train derailed and exploded nearby Casselton, North Dakota, prompting an evacuation. "We dodged a bullet by having it out of town, but this is too close for comfort," the town's mayor said, adding that it could have killed dozens of people.
The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) says Bakken Shale oil may be more prone to ignition at lower temperatures than other kinds of crude. In an unprecedented joint statement with its Canadian counterpart in January, the safety agency warned that "major loss of life" could result from an oil train accident. It urged that oil trains be re-routed away from population centers.
If there was ever a population center, it's our downtown and our stadiums. "Until we can be sure that they won't explode, we should hit the pause button," Eric de Place, Policy Director at Sightline, tells me. "I think this is something every person should be worried about: being incinerated."
Take 300,000 computer-controlled mirrors, each 7 feet high and 10 feet wide. Control them with computers to focus the Sun's light to the top of 459-foot towers, where water is turned into steam to power turbines. Bingo: you have the world's biggest solar power plant, the Ivanpah Solar Electric Generating System.
Long-mired by regulatory issues and legal tangles, the enormous solar plant–jointly owned by NRG Energy, BrightSource Energy and Google–opened for business today.
Long Mired By Regulations And Legal Tangles, World's Largest Solar Plant Started Creating Electricity Today. JV... http://t.co/OSrPGRfVEA— OccupyHarrisonburg (@OccupyHburg) February 13, 2014
In today's New York Times, a physicist and writer who lives on Orcas Island says the environmental concerns are real, but...
...much larger issues of national and global concern are at stake. The low-sulfur Western coal, strip-mined from federal lands, is valuable public property. The federal government’s leasing of these lands at low cost to strip miners made some sense a few decades ago when the United States needed low-sulfur coal to reduce the amount of sulfur dioxide that was being emitted by coal-burning power plants and causing acid rain. But today, as utilities convert to cheap natural gas and American coal use declines, mining companies are seeking customers in China, Japan and Korea.
Shipping this subsidized coal to Asian countries to help them power their factories, which undercut American manufacturers, makes little sense. Yes, this coal will help those countries produce cheap consumer goods for sale in stores across the United States. But it will also promote the continued transfer of industrial work to Asia, especially if the Trans-Pacific Partnership goes through. Is that good for American workers?
Returning to the environmental concerns, and to one of the countries that wants to import a lot of this US-taxpayer-subsidized coal: "Severe pollution in Beijing has made the Chinese capital 'barely suitable' for living, according to an official Chinese report."
In the rush to complete what ended up being $51 billion in construction in just five years, Russian’s Olympic Committee has played fast and loose with the environmental standards it once promised to uphold. To take just one example of many, Olympic organizers make much of the fact that Russia’s first green construction standards were implemented for the Games. But at the same time, authorities have also reversed legislation protecting national parks in order to allow for those green buildings to go up. As a result, construction of the Olympic village ended up affecting over 8,000 acres of Sochi National Park, a strictly protected UNESCO World Heritage Site.
As the global news agency AFP recently reported, the area’s sensitive wetlands, home to 65 species of birds, were buried under six and a half feet of crushed rock, while reptiles and brown bears have reportedly gone missing from surrounding mountain areas. Water pollution in the Mzymta River, once a major spawning site, threatens a fifth of Russia’s Black Sea salmon. And while Olympic organizers boast that they’ve planted 1.5 million new trees — three for every one that was cut down — Suren Gazaryan, a zoologist and environmental activist who was forced to flee the country, said that the scattered planting can in no way make up for what was lost.
It goes on. As one sustainability consultant has said: "Sochi should never have happened in that location."
Did you know that the city has a "Tree Ambassador" program? Well, it sure does, and they're looking for new tree ambassadors right now! It's your time to shine, We just got this adorable announcement yesterday:
Tree Ambassadors Wanted: Help care for Seattle’s urban trees.Those who finish their training get a name tag and T-shirt. The site reminds you: "No previous tree experience necessary—just a love of trees!" Hey, wait a minute... I believe we have a very good candidate right here in our office.
The City of Seattle’s reLeaf program is looking for new Tree Ambassadors to care for our urban trees—no previous experience necessary! We need your help in these areas, plus we’ll train you:
Tree Walks: Show off your favorite local trees and engage your community. Learn the basics of making maps, identifying trees, and creating walking routes. Next training: Wednesday, March 12 and Saturday, March 15 (attend both).
Landscape Renewal: Plan and organize small-scale renovation projects to improve the health of our local trees. Renovation work includes removing invasive plants, planting trees and understory plants, and mulching. Next training: Wednesday, April 2 and Saturday, April 5 (attend both).
Street Tree Stewardship: Adopt street tree plantings and help them thrive. Learn to plan work parties and recruit volunteers to mulch, weed, and care for the trees that are essential to making Seattle’s neighborhoods walkable. Next training: May 17.
Learn more at www.seattle.gov/trees. You can also e-mail or call us at firstname.lastname@example.org or 206-615-1668.
Where is the US today? Read this ABC report. It's all there: climate denial and politically imposed inaction:
Georgia Gov. Nathan Deal blamed weather forecasters, saying he was caught off-guard due to a changing forecast.
At one point, the only accumulating snow was expected to fall south of Atlanta.
“At that time, it was still, in most of the forecasts, anticipated that the city of Atlanta would only have a mild dusting or a very small accumulation if any,” Deal said at a Wednesday press conference. “Preparations were made for those predictions.”
Forecasters erupted following the comments. The National Weather Service argued that the appropriate outlooks, watches and warnings were released two days in advance.
J. Marshall Shepherd, president of the American Meteorological Society, addressed the topic on his blog, writing, “The buses had a tough time getting kids home, but meteorologists should not be thrown under the bus.”
And why did some meteorologists not ring the alarm loudly?
"[W]e don't want to be accused of crying wolf. Because if we had been wrong, y'all would have all been in here saying, 'Do you know how many millions of dollars you cost the economies of the city of Atlanta and the state of Georgia by shutting down businesses all over this city and this state?'"Always the fucking economy: Growth! Jobs! Growth! Profits!
Whoa! Snow causing major traffic headaches in #ATL. Watch LIVE cam: http://t.co/YKJEF9zKuE pic.twitter.com/Uved7pxidN
— NBC Charlotte (@wcnc) January 29, 2014
In found this piece of information in Leigh Gallagher's The End of the Suburbs: Where the American Dream Is Moving: The average age for homes in the US is just 35 years. That age would have fallen if reality hadn't caught up so soon with the home construction boom that began in 2002. When reality final bite, the global financial system crashed in 2008.
I bring this up because, one, I hate detached houses (apartments are the most advanced and the highest spiritual form of human housing); and, two, though I live in a detached house, it has at least this virtue: It was made in 1904. The fucker is old, crooked, creaky, and much used. For a detached house to be anywhere close to green, it must be in a big city, near public transportation, and old enough to be a haunted house.
So says a new U.N. report on climate change:
OSLO — Governments may have to extract vast amounts of greenhouse gases from the air by 2100 to achieve a target for limiting global warming, backed by trillion-dollar shifts towards clean energy, a draft U.N. report showed on Wednesday.
This is because we're not at all on tack to keep planetary warming below +3.6 degrees Fahrenheit, which is "seen as a threshold for dangerous floods, heat waves, droughts and rising sea levels."
Again and again...
Ford Showcases Sun-Powered C-Max Solar Energi Car at the 2014 Detroit Auto Show #FordNAIAS http://t.co/b88oH6AkAk pic.twitter.com/LmFEpcVD5Z
— inhabitat (@inhabitat) January 13, 2014
Just like that, Goldman Sachs is out of the coal business. Today the banking giant sold off its 49% stake in the parent company of SSA Marine, which wants to build a dirty coal export terminal at Cherry Point near Bellingham.
Environmental coalition Power Past Coal is claiming victory, hot in the heels of a successful campaign that elected a critical-of-coal majority onto the Whatcom County Council (um, proud disclosure: My little brother worked on that campaign). The Sightline Institute's Eric de Place calls Goldman bailing "a signal that the smart money on Wall Street doesn’t think very highly of the firm."
Even if that's true, Mexican magnate Fernando Chico Pardo appears to have no such qualms about the coal project. SSA Marine says he took up the slack left by Goldman and added "substantial new capital injection," without saying how much.
Here in Seattle, Mayor Mike McGinn spoke on Monday at a "strategy session" with student activists trying to get the University of Washington to divest from coal. He Instagrammed the photo below the jump with the caption: "The great kids planning the UW divestment campaign. Coal is not a responsible investment!"
It's only freezing here...
Basically the world is experiencing a record heat wave at the moment. Except for one very outspoken corner pic.twitter.com/0mDXpWtyz1— Doug Saunders (@DougSaunders) January 7, 2014
A former British Petroleum (BP) geologist has warned that the age of cheap oil is long gone, bringing with it the danger of "continuous recession" and increased risk of conflict and hunger.
Peak oil is a phrase that has been claimed by a lot of left-wing cranks, unfortunately. (I had some friends who moved to a commune in North Carolina that turned out to be something of a doomsday cult built around the idea that gas was running out any day now—this was in the late nineties—and so they were hoarding it and preparing for a post-gas America. My friends, luckily, saw the commune for what it was and left almost immediately.) But it stands to reason that the rate at which we're consuming oil is unsustainable. The only people who think there's an eternally renewable reservoir of oil bubbling underneath the surface are the same people who think Satan hid dinosaur skeletons in the Earth to trick us into becoming atheists. So why aren't we doing more to prepare for the eventualities laid out in this article?
(Thanks, Slog tipper Greg.)
Slog tipper Henry asks: "WILL THIS WAR ON CHRISTMAS NEVER CEASE?"
BURN BAN ISSUEDSTAGE ONE BURN BAN CALLED FOR
KING, PIERCE & SNOHOMISH COUNTIES
Effective at 5 p.m., December 25, 2013
THE USE OF FIREPLACES AND UNCERTIFIED WOOD STOVES IS
PROHIBITED UNTIL AIR QUALITY IMPROVES.
OUTDOOR BURNING IS ALSO RESTRICTED.
Sorry, kids. Looks like the only Christmas fireplace you're getting is this one:
Beginning January 1, the United States will ban the import and manufacture of 60-watt incandescent lightbulbs. (Along with their 40-, 75-, and 100-watt siblings.)
The change will make the country more energy efficient, though of course FOX News wonders whether it all couldn't have just been left to the free market:
Some critics resent the ban on the old incandescent light bulbs, saying if the new bulbs are so much better, consumers would choose them without being forced to.
Not mentioned in the FOX article: this change, forced by the federal government, is the direct result of a law signed by President Bush in 2007.
How it looks like down there...
This is what the Antarctic looks like beneath all that ice and snow http://t.co/if1yZcSPfM pic.twitter.com/V3Sw9pJC5r
— inhabitat (@inhabitat) December 23, 2013
Climate-change activists continue to complicate the progress of a 450-ton evaporator, the first of three that are slowly lurching their way from the Port of Umatilla towards the Alberta "tar sands" oilfields.
Last night, 16 people were arrested outside John Day, OR after activists locked themselves to two "disabled vehicles" on highway 26 to slow the progress of the evaporator, currently being shipped by the heavy-haul company Omega-Morgan.
It seems unlikely that the activists (which include Native American groups who have, in some cases, successfully gotten court injunctions to stop the equipment from moving across reservation land) will be able to completely halt the progress of these 40-story pieces of equipment. But they seem determined to delay them for as long as they can, draw as much attention to the shipments as they can, and generally be as big a pain in the ass as possible.
Bertha, Seattle's deep-bore tunnel digger, isn't the only mammoth, controversial piece of equipment that's stuck in the Northwest these days.
This afternoon, about a dozen climate-change activists from Rising Tide Seattle showed up at the Bellevue offices of RCCI, a subsidiary of General Electric, to protest the shipment of a "megaload" evaporator that is currently bogged down in Eastern Oregon, trying to make its way to the tar sands oilfields in Alberta, Canada.
Activists and members of the Umatilla and Warm Springs tribes have been blockading the megaload shipment for weeks, which can only travel at night because its size disrupts traffic. "This thing is forty stories tall," said activist Kyle Miskell on his way to the office occupation this afternoon. "It's like they're shipping a skyscraper—and it's going through reservation areas against their wishes."
"The Alberta tar sands are the most environmentally destructive projects on the planet right now," he added. "As long as companies like RCCI are helping to develop the tar sands, they can expect resistance."
This evaporator is one of three that was scheduled to leave the Port of Umatilla in late November, but has faced a series of blockades including people locking themselves to the rig and one Umatilla woman, a 60 year-old grandmother, lying down in the road. (She was arrested and charged with disorderly conduct.) Adam Gaya of Rising Tide Seattle says that, due to the delays and some weather issues, the megaload has only moved 100 miles since late November, setting the timeline for shipping the evaporators back several weeks.
"People are digging in their heels about this because both GE and Omega-Morgan are looking for a permanent route to ship equipment to the tar sands fields, and roads where they can make modifications," Gaya said. "This is a test run for them and folks feel like if we can prevent or significantly delay these loads from arriving in Alberta, we might be able to shut off one of their last available routes."
Official Chinese news outlets say the country's record-breaking air pollution has made Chinese people smarter, funnier, more egalitarian, and, um, better protected from missile attacks.
On Monday the website of the state broadcaster CCTV published a list of five "unexpected benefits" brought by the smog.
It said the haze had unified Chinese people, as they found solidarity in their complaints; equalised them, as both rich and poor people were vulnerable to its effects; enlightened them, as they realised the cost of rapid growth; and "made Chinese people more humorous", as smog-related jokes proliferated on the internet.
It had also helped to educate people, it said. "Our knowledge of meteorology, geography, physics, chemistry and history has progressed."
The Global Times, a nationalist tabloid published by the Communist party's official People's Daily, added one more advantage: the smog could bolster China's military defences by affecting guided missile systems.
"Smog may affect people's health and daily lives. But on the battlefield it can serve as a defensive advantage in military operations," it said. The article buttressed its argument with a list of historical precedents, such as Serbian soldiers burning tyres to impede Nato planes.
Some of the media links are no longer working, but as of this writing, the CCTV page is still up. According to a crappy Google translate, "Even foreigners also joined in the fun, create a 'Beijing cough' of the disease... Haze inspired the Chinese people's sense of humor, humor is a source of strength to overcome the haze."
That's right. Just laugh your wheezes away!
Please remember this the next time a government starts grumbling about whether an independent press is more trouble than it's worth.
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...
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