State Department to approve permit for Keystone XL

March 24, 2017 by  
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The Trump administration has announced its intention to reverse Barack Obama’s Keystone XL pipeline decision by March 27, according to a report by Politico . Obama blocked construction of the controversial pipeline 16 months ago, a move hailed by environmentalists and slammed by the oil industry. This should come as no surprise, given that one of Donald Trump ’s campaign promises was to push through both Keystone XL and the renewed Dakota Access Pipeline project. The pipeline’s cross-border permit will be signed by Tom Shannon, undersecretary for political affairs. Due to his personal connections with the industry as former CEO of Exxon Mobil, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson has recused himself from the process. This will be the end result of a decade-long fight on the part of developer TransCanada to build the $8 billion project. If construction is completed, the pipeline could potentially result in catastrophic oil spills that could pollute drinking water and destroy ecosystems. But even more worrying is the amount of CO2 the project could produce by triggering development in Alberta’s oil sands . At a time when climate change is accelerating rapidly, the last thing we need is to promote projects that will pump huge amounts of carbon into the atmosphere. Related: The Keystone XL Pipeline could be resurrected under Trump’s administration This isn’t the end of the road for anti-Keystone protesters. Though the project has won cross-border approval, it still needs to receive approval from the state of Nebraska and a small number of landowners who have refused to yield the right of way. The Nebraska decision isn’t expected until September. Via Politico Images via Wikimedia Commons and Maureen/Flickr

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Scientists warn Amazon jungle faces death spiral

March 14, 2017 by  
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A new study reveals that the Amazon rainforest may face a “death spiral” of deforestation and drought over the next century. The data comes from the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research in Germany, and while the entire forest is unlikely to disappear from the face of the Earth, large parts of the region are currently considered to be at risk. The study explores what might happen as climate change causes the region to experience more frequent and more intense dry seasons. While it may seem obvious that reduced rainfall causes trees to die off and forests to shrink, it’s also been shown that forest loss intensified regional droughts as well. When these two factors occur together, it can cause a self-reinforcing feedback loop that could wipe out large portions of forest. Related: A student-designed drone is hunting illegal loggers in the Amazon Rainforest It’s unclear exactly how much of the Amazon is at risk – computer models show this type of forest dieback could threaten up to 38 percent of the Amazon basin. However, researchers stress that eventually most of the Amazon forest could potentially be at risk. The future isn’t completely without hope, however: the study also found that the more diverse an area’s vegetation is, the less susceptible it is to the effects of the feedback loop. So increasing biodiversity could be a vital tool in protecting the Amazon – and other vulnerable regions – from the worst effects of climate change . The full study has been published in the journal Nature Communications . Via The Independent Images via Wikimedia Commons ( 1 , 2 )

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14,000 forced from homes by flooding in San Jose

February 23, 2017 by  
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A series of heavy rainstorms has caused severe flooding near San Jose, California, forcing a mandatory evacuation of at least 14,000 residents overnight . About 250 of those people had to be rescued via boat by emergency crews. The flooding affected Coyote Creek and the spillway of the Anderson Reservoir, which was filled to capacity by the recent rain. An additional 22,000 have not been ordered to evacuate yet, but have been encouraged to leave their homes. Some of those affected have complained that they received no advance notice that they needed to evacuate until firefighters showed up, delivering notifications door-to-door, leaving them little time to prepare. San Jose Mayor Sam Liccardo has pledged to investigate the issue. Floodwaters have begun to recede, however, the danger may not have passed. Further rain is forecast for this weekend, but the break in the rain should allow authorities time to assess the current damage. Water levels in Coyote Creek are already at a 100 year peak, so any additional rain could be dangerous. Related: California storms could herald the end of punishing historic drought After a lengthy drought, heavy storms have pummeled much of California this year, causing mudslides and flooding. Earlier in the month, nearly 200,000 people were evacuated near the Oroville dam due to fears it might overflow. Via NPR Images via AJ+

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Scott Pruitt attacks critics and EPA employees in first speech

February 22, 2017 by  
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In this first address to the staff of the Environmental Protection Agency , newly-appointed chief Scott Pruitt didn’t give any rousing remarks about fighting global warming or protecting the planet. Instead, he used the opportunity to strike back at everyone who opposed his controversial candidacy for the position over recent weeks, and laid out a vision that seems to undermine everything the agency stands for . In an address lasting less than 20 minutes, Pruitt described his vision of an EPA that works closely with industrial companies before enacting anti-pollution regulations in order to make it easier for them to comply. (That sound be simple for Pruitt’s EPA – it’s much easier to comply with regulations that simply don’t exist, such as the stream protection rule recently repealed by Congress.) He made no mention of climate change or environmental destruction at all. He did, however, address one unsurprising topic: the EPA’s staff and their opposition to the Trump administration . He bashed the agency for its past actions, which he sees as outside of its legal mandate, and for denying states the right to set their own legislation. Considering that Pruitt has made his name suing the agency 13 times , the verbal assault was more or less to be expected. Related: PA workers openly fight against potential Pruitt confirmation EPA staffers aren’t taking their new boss’s word lying down. One has already blasted it as “condescending and hypocritical” in an anonymous interview with Mother Jones . One Obama-era communications staffer, Liz Purchia, agreed, saying, “Accomplishing agency priorities was no easy task when the administrator had staff’s back and politicals and careers agreed the majority of the time, so let’s see how well Trump’s EPA does getting staff to follow them when they feel disrespected. These are professionals with years of experience, who have been made to feel like their leader doesn’t trust their judgment.” Considering that EPA workers are already in open revolt against Pruitt’s leadership and have already been talking anonymously to the press to undermine Trump’s pollution-friendly agenda, it should be interesting to see his approach over the next four years. Via Huffington Post Images via Gage Skidmore

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Scott Pruitt attacks critics and EPA employees in first speech

The biggest artwork in Europe "recharges" an Italian mountain with new trees

February 22, 2017 by  
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Spanish artist Escif is on an eco art mission to reforest Southern Italy’s Mount Olivella, which due to  massive deforestation centuries ago, is causing hydrogeological instability in the region today. The artist’s impressive environmental art intervention, Breath – Time to Recharge includes an image of a tree battery on the bald face of the mountain, which will slowly “recharge” thanks to the planting of 5,000 new indigenous trees, creating what’s being called Europe’s largest artwork. https://vimeo.com/203920760 Located in Sapri, Southern Italy, Mount Olivella was partly deforested in the 1700s, which has created a hydrogeological instability of the region. This instability is most likely to blame for climate-related problems such as flooding in the surrounding areas. Related: Irish town plans to plant world’s largest giant redwood grove The Breath project, designed by Escif and curated by Antonio Oriente and Incipit , includes planting 2,500 Holm Oaks and 2,500 Maples on the mountain’s bald face within the battery image. All in all, the art piece will cover a surface of 120,000 square meters – almost the size of 17 football fields. The first phase of the tree planting is scheduled for September 2017. Over time, locals will be able to see the battery image slowly “recharging”. More trees will be planted in 2019 in order to fully recharge the tree battery and restore the mountain back to its green glory. The project is currently running an Indiegogo campaign for support, and funds from an upcoming concert by Damien Rice on May 19th will also go towards the project. + Escif + Breath Project

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The biggest artwork in Europe "recharges" an Italian mountain with new trees

Mexico City is sinking – and it’s going to cause some real problems

February 20, 2017 by  
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Mexico City , a scant mile and a half above sea level, is sinking. It’s a turn of events that shouldn’t surprise anyone with a rudimentary grasp of history. Established by the Aztecs in 1325, the city formerly known as Tenochtitlán occupies what was once a plexus of interconnected lakes that were first drained by the Spaniards, then paved over with concrete and steel by modern engineers. As a result, Mexico City has to dig deep—literally—to obtain fresh water for its 21 million residents. But the drilling weakens the brittle clay beds that serve as the city’s foundation, according to the New York Times , hastening the collapse even further. For Mexico City, climate change isn’t a game of partisan ping-pong. Per the Times : More heat and drought mean more evaporation and yet more demand for water, adding pressure to tap distant reservoirs at staggering costs or further drain underground aquifers and hasten the city’s collapse. In the immense neighborhood of Iztapalapa — where nearly two million people live, many of them unable to count on water from their taps — a teenager was swallowed up where a crack in the brittle ground split open a street. Sidewalks resemble broken china, and 15 elementary schools have crumbled or caved in. Related: Xomali House in Mexico City makes clever use of a tiny 115 square foot lot Rising temperatures and the increased incidence of droughts and floods could send millions of Mexicans fleeing north and “heightening already extreme political tensions over immigration.” At the same time, Mexico City is facing a water crisis that prevents nearly 20 percent of its residents from getting water from their faucets each day. People have had to resort to hiring trucks to deliver drinking water, sometimes at prices 10 times higher than what richer neighborhoods with more reliable plumbing have to pay. “Climate change is expected to have two effects,” Ramón Aguirre Díaz, director of the Water System of Mexico City, told the Times . “We expect heavier, more intense rains, which means more floods, but also more and longer droughts.” If rain stops filling the reservoirs, “there is no way we can provide enough trucks of water to deal with that scenario,” he added. Mexico City could still rally some long-term solutions, but like most places, the city is roiled by political infighting. “There has to be a consensus—of scientists, politicians, engineers and society—when it comes to pollution, water, climate,” said Claudia Sheinbaum, a former environment minister. “We have the resources, but lack the political will.” Via New York Times

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Scientists discover immense pool of molten carbon beneath the Western United States

February 15, 2017 by  
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In what could be some of the worst news for climate change since the election of Donald Trump , a group of scientists have discovered a massive reservoir of melting carbon hidden deep under the Western United States. Researchers used the world’s largest array of seismic sensors to map the reservoir, which covers an area of about 695,000 square miles and challenges everything scientists have previously thought about the amounts of carbon trapped inside the Earth. To make a long story short, there’s way more than anyone has ever predicted before. Located about 217 miles beneath the planet’s surface, the reservoir is made up of carbonates that are melting under temperatures as hot at 7,230 degrees Fahrenheit. According to Science Daily , carbonates are a large group of minerals – including magnesite and calcite – which contain a specific carbon ion that when molten is believed to be responsible for the electrical conductivity of the Earth’s mantle . While it’s too deep underground to physically study, a research team from the Royal Holloway University of London employed a wide-ranging network made up of 583 seismic sensors to conduct their study. Those sensors honed in on some strange vibrations in the upper mantle, which in turn identified this immense pool of molten carbon. Based on what these sensors have told them, the researchers believe the Earth’s upper mantle might hold as much as 110 trillion tons of melted carbon. “Under the western US is a huge underground partially-molten reservoir of liquid carbonate,” explains team member, Sash Hier-Majumder. “It is a result of one of the tectonic plates of the Pacific Ocean forced underneath the western US, undergoing partial melting, thanks to gasses like carbon dioxide and water contained in the minerals dissolved in it.” It turns out this carbon is a bit of sleeping giant, as the scientists say this it will make its way out of the deep recesses of the Earth slowly via volcanic eruptions. But that seepage will add to the significant amounts of greenhouse gasses humans are adding to the planet’s atmosphere and contribute to climate change. Related: Scientists hatch crazy $500 billion plan to refreeze the Arctic “We might not think of the deep structure of Earth as linked to climate change above us, but this discovery not only has implications for subterranean mapping, but also for our future atmosphere ,” Hier-Majumder explains. “For example, releasing only 1% of this CO 2 into the atmosphere will be the equivalent of burning 2.3 trillion barrels of oil. The existence of such deep reservoirs show how important is the role of deep Earth in the global carbon cycle.” Via Science Daily Images via gunckx , Flickr Creative Commons and Pixabay

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Army approves Dakota Access Pipeline route – and construction could begin immediately

February 8, 2017 by  
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In a surprise move, the US Army Corps of Engineers just approved construction on the final 1.5 miles of the Dakota Access Pipeline . The move cut short a public comment period and environmental impact assessment that was supposed to last two weeks – the Army was originally supposed to accept comments through February 20th, but it expedited the process under the direction of Donald Trump . The accelerated timeline makes legal challenges to the pipeline extremely difficult. The agency has also announced it’s planning to waive its usual policy of waiting 14 days after notifying Congress of the decision to grant an easement. Instead, the easement could be granted within 24 hours, allowing Energy Transfer Partners to begin construction immediately. Due to the nature of the project, it’s not necessary for the company to apply for a separate construction license. Related: 76 water protectors arrested at Standing Rock The Standing Rock Sioux Tribe reports that it plans to file a lawsuit and ask for a temporary restraining order to halt construction while the decision’s legal standing undergoes a review. The protestors are also coordinating an international day of action to stand against the decision. In the past, police have soaked Standing Rock protectors with water cannons in freezing conditions, attacked them with dogs , and early in February 76 protestors were arrested during a raid on a new camp at Standing Rock. Via NPR Images via Standing Rock Uprising Wikimedia Commons ( 1 , 2 )  

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Army approves Dakota Access Pipeline route – and construction could begin immediately

House Republicans move to make methane pollution great again

February 6, 2017 by  
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Congressional Republicans are attempting to quickly dismantle former President Barack Obama’s environmental regulations to combat climate change . On Friday, the GOP-controlled House voted 221-191 to overturn an Interior Department rule that aims to limit “fugitive” methane emissions from oil and gas drilling operations on public lands. The natural gas is wasted through leaks, intentional venting, or burning off the gas — a process known as flaring. According to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), the global warming potential of methane (CH4) is 34 times stronger than carbon dioxide (CO2) over a 100-year time scale and 86 times more potent than CO2 over 20 years when climate carbon feedbacks are included. Three Democrats — Jim Costa (CA-16), Henry Cuellar (TX-28) and Collin Peterson (MN-7) — voted in favor of repealing the rule, while 11 Republicans opposed repeal. According to Open Secrets , a guide to money in politics from the Center for Responsive Politics, Costa received $94,525 from the oil and gas industry during the 2015-2016 campaign cycle, Cuellar received $165,305 in campaign funds from the oil and gas industry, and Peterson received $38,075 in campaign contributions from the oil and gas industry. Related: Aliso Canyon natural gas facility could reopen despite unresolved issues over leak “The rollback gives companies permission to waste $330 million dollars of public assets a year, and generate huge amounts of avoidable pollution that contaminates our air and has a devastating effect on public health,” said Elizabeth Thompson, president of the Environmental Defense Action Fund, in a statement . “We call on the U.S. Senate to protect the interests of the American people, and not cast a vote for business as usual for the oil and gas industry.” The legislation next goes to the Republican-majority Senate for a vote. In addition to allowing unchecked gas flaring again, House Republicans last week voted to repeal an Obama era rule designed to keep coal waste from contaminating streams and waterways. According to the Interior Department, the regulation protects 6,000 miles of streams and 52,000 acres of forests, preventing coal mining debris from being dumped into nearby waters. Via The Washington Post Images via Flickr 1 , 2 Save

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Pipeline breach spills 53,000 gallons of oil on First Nations land

January 25, 2017 by  
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This is why millions of people around the world are opposed to the Dakota Access and Keystone XL oil pipelines just pushed through by Donald Trump. 53,000 gallons or around 1,260 barrels of oil was reported to have spilled on First Nations land in Saskatchewan, Canada last week, though some local residents warn the spill may have occurred earlier. The oil has leaked onto agricultural land, but the government said it has not infiltrated water sources. The leak is Saskatchewan’s largest pipeline breach since a 225,000-liter oil spill last year; some of that oil made its way into the North Saskatchewan river. The recent spill happened on reserve land owned by the Ocean Man First Nation and covered a 66-foot radius. Some 52,834 gallons of oil spilled. Related: Major oil spill 150 miles away from DAPL protest validates Standing Rock concerns With multiple pipelines in the area, the government is uncertain which was responsible for the spill. They think the source could be a pipeline owned by Tundra Energy Marketing Limited (TEML), so the company is leading clean-up efforts. So far 170,000 liters, or around 44,909 gallons, have been recovered, according to the government, which also said wildlife and air quality have not yet been harmed by the spill. TEML released a statement and said, “Clean-up work on the site commenced immediately and involved the removal of surface oil with vacuum trucks. Additional clean-up work and remediation will be conducted to ensure that the affected land is restored appropriately.” The pipeline was reportedly shut down as soon as the breach was found. But some people wonder if the spill was already underway before the government was made aware of it. Ocean Man First Nation chief Connie Big Eagle said one band member, a longtime oil industry employee, smelled a strange odor near the site of the spill. Big Eagle told CBC News the smell was “going on for about a week.” Via CBC News ( 1 , 2 ) Images via ripperda on Flickr and Ingrid Taylar on Flickr

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