Katherine Bagley is a reporter for InsideClimate News who covers the intersection of environmental science, politics and policy, with an emphasis on climate change. She is co-author of the InsideClimate News book "Bloomberg's Hidden Legacy: Climate Change and the Future of New York City," published in November 2013 and winner of the Deadline Club's Award for Reporting by Independent Digital Media. Her writing has also been included in the anthology Best American Science and Nature Writing.
She previously worked as a freelance journalist and editor, contributing print and multimedia work to Popular Science, Audubon, OnEarth and The Scientist, among other publications.
You can reach her by email at email@example.com.
The BP drilling rig explosion five years ago sent 4.9 million barrels of crude oil into the Gulf of Mexico, causing widespread damage to wildlife, ecosystems and livelihoods still seen today.
The Bureau of Ocean Management waited 20 months after the disaster to hold its first drilling lease sale—but it was a temporary disruption. "There was some pent up demand" in that first sale, which saw 20 companies spending $325 million on 181 drilling leases, said John Filostrat, a spokesman for the agency. It became clear that "companies are still investing in the Gulf."
Overall, lease sales have dropped 60 percent since the BP spill, but the areas being leased for exploration are significant, and reflect the industry's push into deeper and riskier waters far offshore. Companies have purchased the rights to drill on nearly 9 million acres since 2010—an area twice the size of New Jersey—and all of it in the Gulf of Mexico.
Republican policymakers who maintain climate denialist views are increasingly at odds with the majority of their constituents, according to a new analysis by researchers at Yale University.
The researchers compared votes by U.S. senators on a January climate change measure with their constituents' posture based on a new model that extrapolates localized climate views from polling data. The vote was on an amendment to recognize that "(1) climate change is real; and (2) human activity significantly contributes to climate change."
Republican Colorado Sen. Cory Gardner, for example, voted no on the amendment. Yet 58 percent of Coloradans accept the scientific evidence for anthropogenic warming. Similarly, Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida—a candidate for the Republican presidential nomination—also voted no, though 56 percent of Floridians say climate change is real and man-made. So did Sen. Dean Heller, a Republican from Nevada, where 57 percent would have voted yes.
While plenty of people found humor in the recent news that officials in Florida and Wisconsin are censoring state workers' ability to talk about, much less work on, climate change, other states are not necessarily laughing. In fact, several political and environmental experts told InsideClimate News they could use it as a model to imitate.
Florida Gov. Rick Scott became the leader of this potential trend last month when news emerged that he had ordered environmental staffers not to use the terms "climate change" or "global warming" in communications or reports. Wisconsin established a similar policy last week, voting to ban staffers who manage thousands of acres of forests from working on or talking about global warming.
Experts now say that conservative lawmakers and public officials were far from embarrassed by the censorship revelations; they were emboldened by them. It could lead to a bevy of Republican lawmakers enacting similar policies in other states.
Billionaire Michael Bloomberg is donating $30 million to bolster the Sierra Club’s 13-year-old campaign to end America’s reliance on coal, one of the biggest sources of greenhouse gases. The grant will bring the former New York City mayor's support for the program to $80 million since 2011.
In reporting the gift Wednesday, the Sierra Club said it obtained a matching $30 million in combined donations from more than a dozen additional funders. They include the Hewlett Foundation, the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, the Yellow Chair Foundation, the Grantham Foundation and the Sandler Family Foundation.
Sen. Chuck Schumer of New York, the probable next Senate Democratic leader, has been vocal about the need for climate action and has compiled a solid pro-environment voting record, but he's never been a leader on the issue, environmentalists and political experts said.
A senator since 1998, Schumer's principal focus in a 42-year political career has been economic policy and immigration. Since Hurricane Sandy devastated New York City in 2012, he has joined in calls for world leaders to act on global warming.
"Sen. Schumer has made it clear that he views environmentalists as an important constituency and the environment as an important issue for the party," said David Goldston, director of government affairs for the Natural Resources Defense Council. "On an individual level, it hasn't been where he's put most of his time. In a new role, he'll have to look at things through a new lens."
Political commentators and journalists say the three-term senator is "exactly who Democrats need" to overhaul the party and regain majority control, in the words of the Washington Post's Dana Milbank. The current Democratic leader of the Senate, Harry Reid of Nevada, announced his plan last week to retire after 2016. Reid and some other party leaders, including Sen. Patty Murray of Washington, endorsed Schumer for the post this week.
Schumer drew criticism from New York's anti-fracking grassroots activists last May when he told MSNBC's Joe Scarborough, "Democrats throughout the country have supported fracking." The environmentalists flooded Schumer's office with calls and letters protesting his comment. A few weeks later, he walked back his statement at a fundraiser, said Alex Beauchamp, director of Food and Water Watch's work in the Northeast and a spokesman for New Yorkers Against Fracking.
Democratic Senator Harry Reid of Nevada, one of the most vocal and active climate leaders on Capitol Hill, announced Friday morning he would not seek re-election in 2016.
The Senate minority leader's retirement is a major loss for the climate movement, several political and environmental experts told InsideClimate News.
Reid, 75, has championed dozens of environmental initiatives during his five terms in office, including designating more than 3 million acres of federally protected wilderness, promoting renewable energy, and thwarting three new coal-fired power plant projects in his home state. In recent years, he's become an outspoken advocate for climate action, calling global warming, "one of the greatest challenges of our time."
The edges of Antarctica's ice sheets have been thinning at a rapid rate over the past decade—up to 70 percent faster than average in some spots—due to warming oceans and air.
Known technically as ice shelves, these edges float just offshore in bays or fjords and act as barriers that keep larger, land-based ice sheets from slipping into the ocean. Once they are gone, there will be nothing to hold back the continent-sized ice masses from sliding into the warmer oceans and melting, raising sea levels precipitously.
According to a new study published in the journal Science this week, this could happen by the end of the century.
"Within a lifetime of people who read this story, many of these shelves will be gone," said Andrew Shepherd, a polar scientist at the University of Leeds who reviewed the study before publication. "This is real, rapid environmental change. These shelves have been around for 10,000 years. It is a classic example of how drastically you can disturb the planet with small changes."
Hundreds of museums across the country––including some of the most prestigious––are being asked by more than 30 scientists to cut their ties to the fossil fuel industry.
In a letter sent to more than 330 science and natural history centers on Tuesday, the researchers said that when "some of the biggest…funders of misinformation on climate science" give millions of dollars to science-focused museums, it acts to "undermine public confidence in the validity of the institutions."
"Museums are feeling budgetary crunches, and these donors bring in large sums of money," said Beka Economopoulos, co-founder and director of the Brooklyn-based Natural History Museum, a new educational organization that coordinated the letter. "Museums, even unintentionally, are unlikely to bite the hand that feeds them. There is a threat of self-censorship where the philanthropy serves to make museums more reticent to offend the donor, or certainly to critique the practices of the donor."
The campaign comes just weeks after the release of public documents show Smithsonian-affiliated astrophysicist Wei-Hock (Willie) Soon published articles arguing that the sun, not greenhouse gases, is driving modern climate change after receiving hundreds of thousands of dollars from fossil fuel interests. He later failed to disclose that funding in academic journals' conflict-of-interest statements.
Museums are some of the world's top tourist destinations, particularly for families. Science-related institutions made up four of the top 10 most visited museums across the globe in 2014.
Concern over these museums' close financial ties with major oil-and-gas donors has been mounting for years. Fossil fuel billionaire David Koch, for example, sits on the boards of trustees of the American Museum of Natural History in New York City and the Smithsonian's National Museum of Natural History in Washington, D.C. Koch gave the Smithsonian $15 million to build the Hall of Human Origins, which opened in 2010. The exhibit has been widely criticized for ignoring the role humans play in driving modern climate change, and the challenge it poses to modern society.