Trump’s cuts would have ‘devastating impact’ on NY, says NY Attorney General

March 24, 2017 by  
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President Donald Trump’s proposed budget cuts to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Superfund program would have a “devastating impact” on New York State, New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman declared at a rally at the Gowanus Canal in Brooklyn earlier this week. Joined by activists and lawmakers on Tuesday at what is widely considered to be the nation’s most polluted waterway, Schneiderman blasted the president’s calls to slash the agency’s funding by more than 30 percent, noting that the move would stymie the progress of cleaning up America’s most contaminated sites. “President Trump’s proposed budget cuts would have a devastating impact on New York—delaying and obstructing environmental projects around the state,” Schneiderman said. “Decades of hard work have helped clean up New York’s air, water, and environment. But President Trump’s budget threatens to unravel those gains and send us back to the bad old days of choking smog and rampant pollution.” Once a bustling cargo-transportation hub, the 1.8-mile-long Gowanus Canal is now a cesspool of raw sewage, carcinogenic sludge, and oil slicks. It floundered in political limbo for decades before the EPA designated the canal a Superfund site in 2010. Related: Brooklyn’s Gowanus Canal gets Superfund status Dredging work was supposed to begin in earnest later this year, but Trump’s “blueprint” to bring the EPA’s budget to $5.7 billion—its lowest level in 40 years when adjusted for inflation—could grind the already glacial progress to a halt. Schneiderman says he isn’t above taking legal action against the White House, if necessary. “As we’ve made clear: if the Trump administration won’t meet its legal obligations to ensure basic access to a clean, safe, and healthy environment, we won’t hesitate to act to protect New Yorkers,” he said. + Attorney General Eric Schneiderman Via WNYC Photos by bobistraveling

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Trump’s cuts would have ‘devastating impact’ on NY, says NY Attorney General

Google Street View cars are helping scientists spot methane leaks

March 23, 2017 by  
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The Google fleet has been mapping cities around the world for years, making navigation easier for travelers. Now they have an important new responsibility: Google Street View cars will seek out natural gas leaks in urban areas. The data will not only help cities protect citizens from potentially harmful gas leaks, but also help cut accidental greenhouse gas emissions. The project was outlined in a new paper published in the journal Environmental Science and Technology . It’s a collaborative effort between Colorado State University researchers, the Environmental Defense Fund , and Google that involves attaching methane sensors to Google Street View cars. Related: Google Street View takes you inside the fiery depths of an active volcano The cars have been outfitted with special infrared lasers that can detect the amount of methane in the surrounding air in real time. Experiments found that the sensors had a range of about 65 feet, more than enough to detect leaks in urban settings where pipelines run beneath or near public streets. So far, the cars have found that there may be many more methane leaks in America’s major cities than previously believed. Cities with more modern pipelines were far less likely to have leaks, while Boston —the worst offender—was found to have thousands of leaks, resulting in a loss of about 1,300 tons of gas per year. Related: House Republicans move to make methane pollution great again While these aren’t necessarily a threat to public health or safety as long as the leaks are outdoors and natural gas can’t build up to explosive levels, they can wreak havoc on the atmosphere. Methane is far more potent than carbon dioxide, and leaks could seriously accelerate climate change if they aren’t addressed. Via The Washington Post Images via Wikipedia

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Google Street View cars are helping scientists spot methane leaks

Mexico-sized algae bloom in the Arabian Sea connected to climate change

March 21, 2017 by  
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Talk of climate change probably evokes images of rising sea levels or hotter temperatures, but what about algae blooms ? Scientists have made a direct connection between an algae bloom in the Arabian Sea, which has blown up to the size of Mexico, and climate change. The massive bloom has been captured from satellites . 30 years ago, algae in the Gulf of Oman could barely be seen. Now, twice a year, microscopic organisms of the species Noctiluca scintillans turns the gulf green as it sprawls throughout the Arabian Sea towards India. Scientists say conditions produced by climate change are allowing the algae to thrive. Columbia University researchers have even traced the algae blooms to ice melting in the Himalayas. Related: Florida declares state of emergency due to gigantic algae bloom Satellite technology has also allowed researchers to connect algae with greater levels of water and air pollution . NASA ocean carbon and biology projects manager Paula Bontempi told the Associated Press satellite images of the algae are beautiful, like a Van Gogh painting, but in person the algae is smelly and ugly. She said, “We know that our Earth is changing. It may be in a direction we might not like.” The phenomenon threatens local ecosystems ; algae has been known to paralyze fish . The United Nations’ science agency says in rare cases algal toxins have killed humans. Oman faces unique threats from the algae bloom. There, algae can clog pipes at desalination plants providing as much as 90 percent of fresh water for the country. Fisheries in the country could also be harmed by the algae bloom; in 2008 an eruption of a different type of algae beached 50 tons of fish, which were starving for oxygen and rotted along the coast of Oman. Saleh al-Mashari, the captain of a researcher vessel, said this algae bloom has already caused damage. He told the Associated Press, “The fish are migrating. They can’t get enough air here.” Ahmad al-Alawi, a marine ecologist, said blooms are getting larger and lasting for longer periods of time. He said the blooms displace zooplankton, which are the base of the local food chain . Via Phys.org Images via Tristan Schmurr on Flickr and Wikimedia Commons

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Mexico-sized algae bloom in the Arabian Sea connected to climate change

Boston public schools phase in new map to decolonize curriculum

March 21, 2017 by  
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The global map on which all your geographical knowledge is based probably wasn’t as accurate as you thought. For nearly 500 years, classrooms have referred to the Mercator projection, which exaggerated the size of continents in the northern hemisphere. But now Boston public schools are switching over to the Gall-Peters projection, which attempts to correct the sizes of countries and could have a dramatic impact on students’ worldview. The Flemish cartographer Gerardus Mercator devised the Mercator projection all the way back in 1569. Now hundreds of years later, Boston schools are implementing a replacement, and director of the Boston public schools history department Natacha Scott says they believe they are the first public school district in America to make the switch. Related: New map reveals the world’s most toxic countries The Mercator projection has informed our collective worldview for centuries, but Mercator made it seem as if North America and Europe were larger than South America and Africa , for example. He also moved the equator, which places Germany near the map’s middle instead of much further north. Arno Peters, a German historian, released his projection in 1974 – as it corresponds with work by James Gall, a 19th century Scottish cartographer; today it’s called the Peters or Gall-Peters projection. Now in Boston classrooms, teachers have put the Gall-Peters projection up next to the Mercator projection. Colin Rose, Assistant Superintendent of Opportunity and Achievement Gaps for the Boston Public Schools, told The Guardian, “This is the start of a three-year effort to decolonize the curriculum in our public schools…It’s important that students trust the material they are given in school but also question it. The Mercator projection is a symbolic representation that put Europe at the center of the world. And when you continue to show images of the places where people’s heritage is rooted that is not accurate, that has an effect on students.” But some people say the Gall-Peters projection is also distorted – stemming mainly from the fact that it’s difficult to place a three dimensional sphere shape on a two dimensional piece of paper. Sizes are correct in the Gall-Peters projection, but shapes are wrong: near the poles countries are stretched horizontally and near the equator they’re stretched vertically, according to Business Insider, which pointed to four alternatives , including the Winkel tripel projection which National Geographic adopted in 1998. Via The Guardian and Business Insider Images via Wikimedia Commons ( 1 , 2 )

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Boston public schools phase in new map to decolonize curriculum

Archaeologist suggests ancient humans helped catalyze the Sahara’s desertification

March 17, 2017 by  
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The Sahara Desert we know, with its rolling sand dunes and hot temperatures, used to be a verdant grassland with lakes. Scientists have traditionally attributed the dramatic change to a wobble in Earth’s orbital axis , but now archaeologist David K. Wright of Seoul National University is suggesting actually, humans may have been to blame. A 10,000-year or so wet period called the African Humid Period brought moisture to northern and eastern Africa. But around 8,000 years ago the moisture balance began to change. Today below the sand-dominated landscape can be found signs of rivers and plants, remnants of a greener history. In an article published in the journal Frontiers in Earth Science , Wright explained humans used to be thought of as passive agents in the end of the African Humid Period. But he thinks humans might actually have been active agents in the change. Related: The Mediterranean will become a desert unless global warming is limited to 1.5°C Wright said, “In East Asia there are long established theories of how Neolithic populations changed the landscape so profoundly that monsoons sopped penetrating so far inland.” He thinks a similar phenomenon could have happened in the Sahara. People growing crops and raising livestock could have changed the environment , exposing soil, and sunlight bouncing from the soil could have warmed the air, influencing atmospheric conditions enough so there wasn’t as much rainfall, which only added to the desertification of the Sahara. As yet, Wright needs more evidence for other scientists to fully get on board with his ideas. He said, “There were lakes everywhere in the Sahara at this time, and they will have the records of the changing vegetation. We need to drill down into these former lake beds to get the vegetation records, look at the archaeology , and see what people were doing there.” If Wright turns out to be right, his research could yield insights into how we can adapt to large scale climate change . Via Phys.org and ScienceAlert Images via Charly W. Karl on Flickr and Wikimedia Commons

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Trump team claims funding climate change is "a waste of your money"

March 17, 2017 by  
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Predictions that the environment wouldn’t fare well under Donald Trump are already coming true. His budget proposal aims to slash Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) funding by 31 percent, tossing out climate change programs because as White House budget director Mick Mulvaney said, those are “a waste of your money.” Perhaps Trump’s America First budget proposal shouldn’t come as a surprise: it’s highly militaristic and hard on the arts, the sick, the poor, foreign aid, and of course climate change. Under the Trump budget, pollution cleanup efforts and energy efficiency measures would be shoved to the side. Related: Trump to purge climate change from federal government Over 50 EPA programs could be lost under the Trump budget, including large-scale cleanup efforts for the Chesapeake Bay and Great Lakes and assistance for Alaskan villages hurting because of climate change. States would be left to pick up the pieces. And so much for Trump’s blustering about jobs – around one in five EPA workers would lose theirs under the so-called America First budget. Mulvaney hearkened back to campaign trail language when he said, “This comes back to the president’s business person view of government , which is if you took over this as a CEO, and you look at this on a spreadsheet and go, ‘Why do we have all of these facilities, why do we have seven when we can do the same job with three, won’t that save money,’ and the answer is yes…You can’t drain the swamp and leave all the people in it. So, I guess the first place that comes to mind will be the Environmental Protection Agency.” He also doubled down on Trump’s view of climate change. “We’re not spending money on that anymore,” Mulvaney said. “We consider that to be a waste of your money.” Ultimately Trump’s budget is simply a recommendation; Congress will write and pass a budget. It remains to be seen if they’ll gut the EPA as much as Trump wishes. Via The Guardian Images via Gage Skidmore on Flickr and Eric Vance/USEPA Environmental-Protection-Agency on Flickr

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Dramatic disintegration of Canada permafrost threatens huge carbon release

March 3, 2017 by  
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Permafrost , or frozen soil , is rapidly collapsing across a 52,000 square mile area in northwest Canada – about the size of the entire state of Alabama. New research from the Northwest Territories Geological Survey (NTGS) finds the permafrost thaw is intensifying, a dramatic disintegration that could speed up climate change . When these slabs of Arctic permafrost collapse, they send silt and mud rich in carbon into waterways. The research shows the decay is resulting in landslides that could alter large swaths of landscape. Similar phenomenon have been noted in Scandinavia, Siberia, and Alaska. The new study sought to measure permafrost decay in Canada using satellite images and other data – and Steven Kokelj of NTGS, lead author of a paper published in February by Geology , said “things have really taken off” in the face of climate change. Scientists from universities in New Zealand and Canada also contributed to the research. Related: Alaskan permafrost could melt in the next 55 years, says world’s leading expert The scientists observed permafrost disintegrating in 40- to 60-mile stretches of the terrain, revealing “extensive landscapes [that] remain poised for climate-driven change.” Other research has suggested thawing permafrost could lead to the collapse of coastlines or creation of new lakes or valleys. All that silt and mud could affect fish and other species living in the waterways, limiting development of aquatic plants, but scientists still need to determine how exactly this added mud might impact fish. Also up for debate is how quickly the carbon in melted permafrost becomes carbon dioxide (CO2). Scientist Suzanne Tank of the University of Alberta told InsideClimate News the carbon in permafrost becomes coarse particles that don’t become CO2 right away. But Swedish researchers conducted a study suggesting soil particles are in fact converted rapidly to CO2 when the soil is carried along to the sea. Via InsideClimate News Images via Wikimedia Commons and U.S. Geological Survey on Flickr

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Antarctica just hit a record high temperature of 63.5F

March 2, 2017 by  
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Climate change is already ravaging the Antarctic Peninsula, which the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) described as one of the fastest warming regions on Earth. In a recent statement, the organization announced the area has witnessed record high temperatures. The Argentine Research Base Esperanza, which rests on the Antarctic Peninsula’s northern tip, hit 63.5 degrees Fahrenheit on March 24, 2015. WMO identified three subregions in Antarctica, and listed the high temperature record for each. The Antarctic Region, or all the land under the 60th parallel south, saw a balmy temperature of 67.6 degrees Fahrenheit back in January 1982. It’s the Antarctic continent, or “the main continental landmass and adjoining islands” as defined by WMO that saw the recent hot temperature of 63.5 degrees. The Antarctic Plateau, which is land higher than 8,202 feet, saw a record temperature of 19.4 degrees Fahrenheit in December 1980. Related: Scientists warn rapidly-melting glacier in West Antarctica could cause serious global havoc WMO said the average annual temperature is around 14 degrees Fahrenheit along the coast of Antarctica, and negative 76 degrees Fahrenheit at the interior’s highest regions. But parts of Antarctica have already heated up nearly three degrees Celsius, or 37.4 degrees Fahrenheit, in just the past 50 years. According to the organization, “Some 87 percent of glaciers along the west coast of the Antarctic Peninsula have retreated in the last 50 years with most of these showing an accelerated retreat in the last 12 years.” Around 90 percent of the planet’s fresh water is in Antarctica, frozen as ice. Should all that ice melt, sea levels would spike by around 200 feet, so even extremes around the edges of the region concern scientists. The recently released data highlights the dire need for continued climate change research . Polar expert Michael Sparrow, of the World Climate Research Program co-sponsored by WMO, said in the statement, “The Antarctic and the Arctic are poorly covered in terms of weather observations and forecasts, even though both play an important role in driving climate and ocean patterns and in sea level rise. Verification of maximum and minimum temperatures help us to build up a picture of the weather and climate in one of Earth’s final frontiers.” Via Reuters Images via Wikimedia Commons ( 1 , 2 )

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Antarctica just hit a record high temperature of 63.5F

Duke University researchers use light to convert carbon dioxide to fuel

February 24, 2017 by  
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What if the carbon dioxide building up in our atmosphere could be put to good use as fuel ? For years chemists have chased a catalyst that could aid the reaction converting carbon dioxide to methane , a building block for many fuels – and now Duke University scientists have found just such a catalyst in tiny rhodium nanoparticles . Duke University researchers converted carbon dioxide into methane with the help of rhodium nanoparticles, which harness ultraviolet light’s energy to catalyze carbon dioxide’s conversion into methane. Rhodium is one of Earth’s rarest elements, but according to Duke University it plays a key role in our daily lives by speeding up reactions in industrial processes like making detergent or drugs. Rhodium also helps break down toxic pollutants in our cars’ catalytic converters. Related: Scientists create a new kind of matter called time crystals The fact that the scientists employed light to power the reaction is important. When graduate student Xiao Zhang tried heating up the nanoparticles to 300 degrees Celsius, the reaction did produce methane but also produced an equal amount of poisonous carbon monoxide . But when he instead used a high-powered ultraviolet LED lamp, the reaction yielded almost entirely methane. Jie Liu, chemistry professor and paper co-author, said in a statement, “The fact that you can use light to influence a specific reaction pathway is very exciting. This discovery will really advance the understanding of catalysis.” The scientists now hope to find a way to employ natural sunlight in the reaction, which Duke University says would be “a potential boon to alternative energy .” The journal Nature Communications published the research of seven scientists from Duke University’s chemistry and physics departments online this week. Via Duke University Images via Chad Scales/Duke University and Xiao Zhang/Duke University

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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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