Friday, October 19, 2018


A long-awaited study by the EPA finds that fracking has "led to impacts on drinking water resources, including contamination of drinking water wells".

After years of asserting that hydraulic fracturing has never tainted drinking water, the Obama administration issued a long-awaited study of the controversial oil and gas production technique that confirmed "specific instances" when fracking "led to impacts on drinking water resources, including contamination of drinking water wells." The conclusion was central to a nearly 1,000-page draft assessment issued, finally, onThursday by the Environmental Protection Agency to address public concerns about the possible effects of fracking on drinking water.
  In the past, top administration officials such as former EPA administrator Lisa Jackson and Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz maintained that there was no evidence fracking had fouled drinking water, despite findings to the contrary by EPA's own scientists in several highly publicized cases. The acknowledgment of instances of fracking-related contamination marks a notable reversal for the administration. "Today EPA confirmed what communities living with fracking have known for years: fracking pollutes drinking water," said Earthworks policy director Lauren Pagel. "Now the Trump administration, Congress and state governments should act on that information to protect our drinking water, and stop perpetuating the oil and gas industry's myth that fracking is safe."

EPA officials said the study is not meant to provide a comprehensive tally of water contamination incidents. There is no national database of the number of wells fracked or contamination incidents at oil and gas sites.
For 40 years, Congress and successive administrations have exempted the oil and gas sector from a host of federal pollution rules that would require detailed reporting of its activities. As a result, the report stitches together a piecemeal picture of fracking-related incidents. It relies on several case studies involving a handful of major incidents, such as a well blowout in Killdeer, N.D., that state regulators investigated. It also uses state data for possible contamination events, such as spills of fracking fluid at well pads, which EPA acknowledges provides a limited scope of the problem. "The spills occurred between January 2006 and April 2012 in 11 states and included 151 cases in which fracturing fluids or chemicals spilled on or near a well pad," the study said.

"This is a study of how we can best protect our water resources," said Dr. Thomas A. Burke, EPA's science adviser and deputy assistant administrator of the Office of Research and Development, which conducted the study. As far as fracking goes, Burke said during a press conference, "it's not a question of safe or unsafe." Launched five years ago at the behest of Congress, the water study was supposed to provide critical information about the method's safety "so that the American people can be confident that their drinking water is pure and uncontaminated," said a top EPA official at a 2011 hearing. But the report was delayed repeatedly, largely because the EPA failed to nail down a key component: a baseline, sampling of water before, during and after fracking. Such data would have allowed EPA researchers to gauge whether fracking affects water quality over time, and to provide best industry practices that protect drinking water. EPA had planned to conduct such research, but its efforts were stymied by oil and gas companies' unwillingness to allow EPA scientists to monitor their activities. As a result, the study does not offer enough new data about fracking's effects, said several scientists who research oil and gas development's impact on water.
Rather, the EPA report provides an overview of cases of fracking-related water pollution investigated by state regulators. "It's comprehensive in its treatment of the literature, but it's not very comprehensive in bringing new research or data from the field," said Robert Jackson, professor of environment and energy at Stanford University. "That's my biggest disappointment: They didn't do prospective studies, they didn't do well monitoring, they didn't do much field research. I don't feel like we have a lot of new information here." Despite its conclusion that fracking has not led to water contamination at every fracking site, the report nonetheless catalogues risks to drinking water at every step of the process: from acquiring water to use in stimulating the well and mixing the fracking chemicals with the water to constructing wells, injecting the fracking fluid into the well, and handling of fracking waste water that flows back up the well. The risks are ever present.

Further, the study confirmed problems that independent researchers have identified over the last five years in peer-reviewed scientific literature. The EPA cited the high number of chemical spills on well pads in places such as Colorado, where fracking fluid could leach into the water table. It confirmed the migration of methane into some people's drinking water in Pennsylvania. Moreover, it noted that oil and gas companies, especially in the West, frack in underground sources of drinking water––or formations where pockets of water and hydrocarbons weave through each other.
Industry has denied such types of fracking. But Jackson and his Stanford colleague Dominic DiGiulio presented research at a conference last year that said oil and gas companies are fracking at much shallower depths than widely believed, sometimes through the underground water sites. The issues with fracking contamination will increase with the expected expansion in fracking for oil and gas unless legislation is passed to control abuses and regulate fracking processes.

Monday, October 15, 2018

Why Half a Degree of Global Warming Is a Big Deal

The Earth has already warmed 1 degree Celsius (1.8 degrees Fahrenheit) since the 19th century. Now, a major new United Nations report has looked at the consequences of jumping to 1.5 or 2 degrees Celsius.

Half a degree may not sound like much. But as the report details, even that much warming could expose tens of millions more people worldwide to life-threatening heat waves, water shortages and coastal flooding. Half a degree may mean the difference between a world with coral reefs and Arctic summer sea ice and a world without them.
Illustration of globe centered on Arctic with ice melting.
Status of Arctic summer sea ice:
1.5°C  Sea ice will remain during most summers      2°C  Ice-free summers are 10 times more likely
An additional half-degree of warming could mean greater habitat losses for polar bears, whales, seals and sea birds. But warming temperatures could benefit Arctic fisheries.
                                     Extreme heat
llustration of people figures being engulfed by growing heat blob.
World population exposed to severe heat    waves (like one that blanketed southeastern
Europe in 2007) at least once every five years:
1.5°C     About 14%   of world population      2°C    About 37%      of world population
Extreme heat will be much more common worldwide under 2°C of warming compared to 1.5°C, with the tropics experiencing the biggest increase in the number of “highly unusual” hot days.
Water scarcity
Illustration of river flow shrinking.
Increase in urban population    exposed to severe drought:
1.5°C       +350 million      people worldwide       2°C     +411 million    people worldwide
The Mediterranean region is expected to see “particularly strong increases in dryness” in a 2°C world compared to a 1.5°C world.
                                      Plants and animals
Illustration of insects with shrinking area.
Species losing more than half of their range:
6% of insects               8% of plants                4%of vertebrates
18% of insects             16% of plants              8% of vertebrates
                                                 Coral reefs
Illustration of bleaching coral.
Status of coral reefs worldwide:
1.5°C         “Very frequent mass mortalities”          2°C          Coral reefs “mostly disappear”
                                         Sea level rise
Illustration of ruler, measuring 1.5°C sea-level rise versu 2°C.
Population exposed to flooding from sea
level rise in 2100 (without adaptation):

1.5°C       31 to 69 million      people worldwide      2°C     32 to 80 million       people worldwide
A half a degree of warming could be significant for small island nations, which are particularly vulnerable to sea level rise and other climate change impacts.
Illustration of wilting corn crop.
Global crop yields are expected to be lower under 2°C of warming compared to 1.5°C, especially in sub-Saharan Africa, Southeast Asia, and Central and South America.

Small changes, big impacts
The report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, compiled by hundreds of scientists from around the world, warns that these dangers are no longer remote or hypothetical.

Nations have delayed curbing their greenhouse gas emissions for so long that warming of 1.5 degrees Celsius (2.7 degrees Fahrenheit) is now all but inevitable. At current rates of warming, the world will likely cross the 1.5 degree threshold between 2030 and 2052, well within the lifetime of most adults and children alive today.

And 1.5 degrees is a best-case scenario. Without an extremely rapid, and perhaps unrealistic, global push to zero out fossil fuel emissions and remove carbon dioxide from the atmosphere, 2 degrees Celsius (3.6 degrees Fahrenheit) or higher this century looks more likely.

Each time the Earth heats up an extra half-degree, the effects aren’t uniform across the planet. Some regions, such as the Arctic, will heat up two to three times faster. The Mediterranean and Middle East regions could see a 9 percent drop in water availability at 1.5 degrees of warming and a 17 percent drop at 2 degrees, according to one major study cited in the report.

“If you’re looking at this one region, which is already water-scarce today and sees a lot of political instability, half a degree makes a really big difference,” said Carl-Friedrich Schleussner, the head of climate science and impacts at Climate Analytics and the lead author of that study. “It’s a good reminder that no one experiences the global average temperature.”

The odds of extreme weather events like severe heat waves or powerful rainstorms also don’t go up uniformly with an extra half-degree. The number of extremely hot days around the world, for example, tends to rise exponentially as the global average temperature increases, the report said.

The risk of tipping points
The report also highlights the possibility that even modest amounts of warming may push both human societies and natural ecosystems past certain thresholds where sudden and calamitous changes can occur.

Take coral reefs, which provide food and coastal protection for half a billion people worldwide. Before the 1970s, it was virtually unheard-of for ocean temperatures to get so warm that swaths of corals would bleach and die off. But as global average temperatures have risen half a degree in that span, these bleaching events have become a regular phenomenon.

With an additional half-degree of warming above today’s levels, the report said, tropical coral reefs will face “very frequent mass mortalities,” though some corals may adapt if given enough time. But at 2 degrees of total warming, coral reefs are in danger of vanishing entirely.

It is less certain when other long-feared tipping points will occur, such as the irreversible disintegration of the vast ice sheets on top of Greenland or West Antarctica. But the report warns that these ice sheets could potentially start to destabilize with 1.5 to 2 degrees of warming, committing the world to many more feet of sea level rise for centuries to come.

The report also warns that vulnerable areas, like many African countries and small island nations, may struggle to cope with multiple impacts. Crop failures, heat waves and the expansion of malaria-carrying mosquitoes compound when they occur together.

“You’re not just adapting to one thing at a time, you’re adapting to everything shifting at once,” said Kristie L. Ebi, a professor of public health at the University of Washington and one of the lead authors of the report’s chapter on climate impacts.

Beyond 1.5 degrees
At the United Nations climate negotiations in Paris in 2015, countries promised to hold total global warming to well below 2 degrees and agreed to “pursue efforts” to limit warming to 1.5 degrees. Leaders of small island nations, like the Marshall Islands and Maldives, had deemed that lower goal essential to their survival.

At this point, however, both goals are starting to look wildly out of reach. If you add up all the national pledges made in Paris to curb emissions, they would put the world on track to warm around 3 degrees Celsius or more.

Holding warming to 1.5 degrees, the report said, would entail a staggering transformation of the global energy system beyond what world leaders are contemplating today. Global greenhouse emissions would need to fall in half in just 12 years and zero out by 2050. To stay below 2 degrees, emissions have to decline to zero by around 2075. Virtually all of the coal plants and gasoline-burning vehicles on the planet would need to be quickly replaced with zero-carbon alternatives.

In addition, the report said, the world would have to swiftly develop and deploy technology to remove billions of tons of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere each year — using technology that is still untested at large scales.

“My view is that 2 degrees is aspirational and 1.5 degrees is ridiculously aspirational” said Gary Yohe, an environmental economist at Wesleyan University. “They are good targets to aim for, but we need to face the fact that we might not hit them and start thinking more seriously about what a 2.5 degree or 3 degree world might look like.”

Thanx Brad Plumer ---Nadja Popovich

Knight Jonny C

Friday, October 12, 2018

Did global warming 'supercharge' Hurricane Michael?

Doyle Rice  
Hurricane Michael exploded in intensity this week, from a rather nondescript tropical depression Sunday with winds of 35 mph to a Category 4 monster Wednesday with 155 winds.

When it hit land, it became the most powerful hurricane on record to slam Florida's Panhandle and the third-strongest U.S. landfall of all time.

Along with other weather factors, Michael's rapid intensification was fueled in part by unusually warm sea water in the Gulf of Mexico. Warm water of at least 80 degrees fuels hurricanes, and the water in the eastern Gulf this week was as much as 4 to 5 degrees warmer than normal.

Although random weather patterns certainly played a role, the warm waters in the Gulf have a “human fingerprint” of climate change, according to National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration climate and hurricane expert Jim Kossin.
Hurricane Michael slammed into the Florida Panhandle on Wednesday as a Category 4 storm, killing several people and causing devastating damage. Now a tropical storm, Michael has swept through Georgia and is headed for the Atlantic Coast but is expected to remain dangerous through Friday. 

(Pictured) A family sits by a lantern outside their antique shop during the power outage in the aftermath of Hurricane Michael on Oct. 11 in Panama City, Fla.

Penn State University climatologist Michael Mann told ThinkProgress that "once again we see a storm undergoing extreme rapid intensification over unusually warm ocean waters. We saw this pattern last year with Harvey and earlier this year with Florence and now, with my namesake, Michael.” meteorologist Ryan Maue said "there's no doubt the ocean water encountered by Michael was quite warm compared to the last three decades, especially near the coast."

Maue analyzed early October water temperatures in the eastern Gulf and found that when comparing data from 1985-2005 to data from 2006-2018, the average temperature rose nearly 1 degree.

He said the cause of the rise is still a research puzzle and that "more detailed climate analysis is needed to better understand what has happened over the past 12 years across the Gulf of Mexico."  

Several recent scientific studies say that hurricanes are intensifying more rapidly than they used to. One study this year in Geophysical Research Letters said that since 1986, the rate of intensification of storms like Michael has increased by about 13 mph. 

A 2015 study on how ocean temperatures affect hurricane intensity in the North Atlantic found intensification increases by 16 percent for every 1.8 degree increase in average sea-surface temperatures, ThinkProgress reported.

Regardless of the cause, “Michael saw our worst fears realized, of rapid intensification just before landfall on a part of a coastline that has never experienced a Category 4 hurricane,” University of Miami hurricane researcher Brian McNoldy said.
Thanx Doyle Rice

Crusader Jenny , Nanook & Knight Mika
This is only the beginning--------------------

Tuesday, October 9, 2018

Could you stop eating beef to save the earth???

Image result for funny pictures of cows
If you’re not going to give up all of the meat, scientists say, you at the very least should consider cutting down on your beef consumption.

Researchers at Bard College, the Weizmann Institute of Science and Yale University calculated the environmental footprint of animal products in the U.S. food production system, from the resources needed to produce the feed that goes into their bodies to the emissions produced by the manure that comes out. Beef, they concluded, is worse for the planet than all of the other meats. Way worse. According to the study, which was published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, the amount of greenhouse gases released by beef production is five times that of poultry, pork, eggs and dairy averaged together. It also requires 28 times more land, 11 times more water and six times more nitrogen fertilizer.

The researchers are framing their findings as an attainable way to green up our diets: while meat, in general, is much harder on the climate than grains and vegetables, convincing people to go vegan or vegetarian may be less doable than getting them to cut down on the worst offenders. And that would be the burgers. “Really, there’s no question about it,” Gidon Eshel, a research professor at the Bard Center for Environmental Policy and the study’s lead author, told the Huffington Post. ”Reduce beef whenever possible.”

“The biggest intervention people could make towards reducing their carbon footprints would not be to abandon cars, but to eat significantly less red meat,” concurred Tim Benton, a scientist at the University of Leeds, in an interview with the Guardian. Benton referred to another study, out last week, that showed how beef is wasting calories that could be better allocated to people suffering from hunger. The researchers behind that one reached the same conclusion: Cutting down on steaks and burgers — or eliminating them from our diets completely — has the potential to make a significant impact on  carbon production.
So put that hamburger down!

Friday, October 5, 2018

From London to Shanghai, world's sinking cities face devastating floods

The threat to major population centers is increasing as planners fail to prepare for impacts of global warming, report says
Flood victims in Bangkok, Thailand, in 2011.
Flood victims in Bangkok, Thailand, in 2011. Like many other major cities across the globe, Bangkok is sinking – which puts it at increasing danger from sea level rises. Photograph: Paula Bronstein/Getty Images
London, Jakarta, Shanghai and Houston and other global cities that are already sinking will become increasingly vulnerable to storms and flooding as a result of global warming, campaigners have warned ahead of a landmark new report on climate science.The threat to cities from sea level rises is increasing because city planners are failing to prepare, the charity Christian Aid said in the report. Some big cities are already subsiding – the ground beneath Shanghai, for instance, is being pressed down by the sheer weight of the buildings above – and rising sea levels resulting from global warming will make the effects worse.

The cities named in the report are sinking for a variety of reasons. Jakarta is thought to be subsiding by 25cm a year largely because of groundwater extraction, and Houston is sinking as the oil wells beneath it are depleted. Bangkok’s skyscrapers are weighing it down, while London is slowly sinking for geological reasons: Scotland is slowly rebounding and rising after having been weighed down by glaciers during the last ice age, which is, in turn, pushing southern England downwards just like a 
see-saw.The warning comes as the world’s leading climate scientists meet this week in South Korea to finalize a comprehensive study setting out whether and how the world can avoid temperature rises of 1.5C above pre-industrial levels. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), the body of scientists convened by the UN, has been asked to examine the consequences of such a rise and assess what progress can be made to limit greenhouse gas emissions.

The world has already warmed by roughly 1C from pre-industrial levels, and sea levels could rise by 40cm if that increases to 1.5C, previous science from the IPCC has suggested. Sharp brakes on greenhouse gas production are expected to be needed to halt the rise.
Under the 2015 Paris agreement on climate change, governments pledged to hold warming to no more than 2C, with an aspiration not to surpass 1.5C, based on previous IPCC advice. The new IPCC report, to be published on Monday, is expected to show that remaining within the 1.5C limit is still possible but only with strong action to reduce carbon in the atmosphere.                          

Christian Aid, one of many organizations publishing studies to coincide with the IPCC’s judgment, looked at the consequences of a 1.5C rise for a selection of eight major cities around the world. The report concludes that poor development choices are exacerbating cities’ vulnerability to weather shocks. They should plan city development around preparing for future flooding.
Kat Kramer of Christian Aid, who wrote the report, said: “These global metropolises may look strong and stable, but it is a mirage. As sea levels rise, they are increasingly under threat and under water.”
Dozens of the world’s biggest cities are built in coastal areas and near major rivers, making them vulnerable not just to sea level rises but also to storm surges, which can send high seas inland and past maritime defenses.
 The UK and the Netherlands experienced such a storm in 1953, when high tides and a storm surge inundated coastal regions. If similar weather were to strike today, the damage could be much greater despite sea defences, because of rising sea levels and the increased severity of storms that is likely to result from climate change. It is a fact most of the largest cities in the world are close to the sea or great rivers for ease of shipping commerce and trade with other countries. Also for fishing industries, tourist industries and many more industries dependent on water. Now we know that sea walls are not adequate to hold back the angry oceans and eventually our biggest cities will be gone like Atlantis unless our engineers put their knowledge to work to protect them.