Lisa Song joined InsideClimate News in January 2011, where she reports on oil sands, pipeline safety and natural gas drilling. She helped write "The Dilbit Disaster" series, which won the 2013 Pulitzer Prize for National Reporting, was a finalist in the 2012 Scripps Howard Awards for Environmental Reporting and won an honorable mention in the 2012 John B. Oakes Award for Distinguished Environmental Journalism. She previously worked as a freelancer, contributing to High Country News, Scientific American and New Scientist. Song has degrees in environmental science and science writing from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.
You can reach her by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Lake Mead, the nation's largest reservoir, reached historic low levels over the weekend, another indication of the persistent drought that grips the American West.
Saturday night, even after a prolonged rainstorm, the gauges at Lake Mead settled out at 1,080.13 feet. It's the lowest recorded lake elevation since the reservoir was filled in the 1930s, said Rose Davis, a spokeswoman for the Bureau of Reclamation, a federal agency that oversees water resources.
And it didn't stop there. By mid-afternoon Tuesday, the lake was at 1,079.76 feet. If lake levels are projected to fall below 1,075 feet in January 2016, it will trigger restrictions on the amount of water than can be drawn from the lake. Additional restrictions would follow if levels reach below 1,050 feet and 1,025 feet.
The city of Las Vegas, which gets 90 percent of its water from Lake Mead, is so concerned about falling reservoir levels that it is building a new intake pipeline deeper within the lake, to ensure it will be able withdraw water even if lake levels continue to decline.
Lake Mead is part of the Colorado River Basin, which provides a crucial source of water to seven states and Mexico. The region is in the midst of a 15-year drought, while the state of California is in its fourth consecutive dry year.
CAMBRIDGE, Mass.––As top-notch experts met at Harvard University to discuss global warming impacts and solutions Monday, dozens of Harvard students and alumni held protests encouraging the university to divest from fossil fuels.
The two events––one organized by Harvard's Office of the President, the other by students, alumni and environmental activists––share a common concern, but they highlight a rift over how the university should address climate change.
The Presidential Panel on Climate Change brought scientific and public policy leaders to a sold-out event at Harvard's 1,000-seat Sanders Theater. For more than an hour, the speakers, moderated by broadcaster Charlie Rose, discussed climate science, policies and solutions.
Meanwhile, divestment activists continued various sit-ins on campus to pressure the administration to shed its oil, gas and coal assets. Harvard President Drew Gilpin Faust has repeatedly said the university will not divest.
The panelists began by summarizing the urgency of the climate crisis and describing what needs to be done.
The United States could run almost entirely on clean energy by 2050, with a larger economy, $5 trillion in savings––and no acts of Congress. That's a vision of the future as seen by Amory Lovins, a sustainability expert who talked about how to reach that goal in a presentation Tuesday at Harvard University in Cambridge, Mass.
Electric vehicles, retrofits, the sharing economy and the rise of clean energy in Europe and China—all these technologies and trends show how a transition from oil, coal and nuclear power is possible, he said.
Lovins is chairman and chief scientist at the Rocky Mountain Institute, a nonprofit think tank and consulting firm that supports renewables and energy efficiency. His talk was based on his 2011 book "Reinventing Fire: Bold Business Solutions for the New Energy Era," and a 2012 TED Talk (a global ideas conference) where he presented the book's findings.
"Long ago, fire made us human, and then fossil fuels made us modern," Lovins said. "But now we need a new fire that makes us safe, secure, healthy and durable, and that turns out to be feasible, and in fact, to be cheaper than what we are doing."
The lecture was part of a series of events at Harvard Climate Week. Other speakers will address issues such as climate change and public health, and the role of corporations in climate action.
The Interior Department released long-awaited rules today for oil and gas wells on federal and tribal lands. Four years in the making, the regulations take aim at the environmental risks of hydraulic fracturing, an extraction technique used on 90 percent of the nation's wells.
The rules, which will go into effect in late June, focus on protecting water quality and wildlife, but do not regulate the industry's effects on climate change. However, the Obama administration is working on a separate set of regulations to address emissions of methane—a powerful greenhouse gas—from oil and gas wells.
Immediate reaction from environmental groups was a mixture of cautious praise and criticism. The oil and gas industry reacted almost instantly with two lawsuits challenging the regulations.
When Hurricane Floyd hit New Jersey in September 1999, 12-year-old Erika Navarro dashed out to her driveway to experience the storm firsthand. For at least 10 minutes she stood in the wind and pelting rain, watching the lake across the street flood its banks.
"It was just completely incredible," she recalled. "I had never seen that much rain falling from the sky, and never seen that much destruction from one event."
The hurricane cemented a lifelong fascination with natural disasters, and led Navarro into her current career as a Ph.D. candidate at the University of Washington, where she studies hurricane forecasting and how solar radiation affects the strength of hurricanes.
When a professor in her department recently asked Navarro to add her voice to More Than Scientists, a climate change public outreach project, Navarro leaped at the chance.
"I've always accepted [that] as a scientist…I have an obligation to reach out to the public," she said.
Under fire for accepting research grants from fossil fuel interests and failing to disclose all of them, climate skeptic Willie Soon challenged journalists last week to examine conflict-of-interest disclosures for mainstream climate scientists.
News reports of Soon's situation are "a shameless attempt to silence my scientific research and writings," he said in a statement issued through the Heartland Institute, a conservative think tank. After documents suggesting conflicts of interest in Soon's publications were made public last month, Rep. Raúl Grijalva (D-Ariz.) initiated an investigation of the funding sources of seven other mainly climate skeptic scientists.
InsideClimate News took up Soon's challenge. After interviewing experts on scientific research and climate denialism, we were not able to find a single case of a conventional climate scientist who had failed to disclose his or her sources of research funding, or who had granted rights of prior review of research results and anonymity to his or her funders, as Soon has done.
The main reason is that almost all the funding for mainstream climate research comes from government agencies, is awarded only after intense peer-reviewed competition, and is a matter of public record. Except for two grants from the Mount Wilson observatory, all of Willie Soon's research since 2002 was funded by fossil fuel interests, according to information provided to InsideClimate News by Soon's employer, the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics.
A watchdog group alerted nine scientific journals Monday that studies they published most likely breached conflict-of-interest protocols. The studies in question were co-authored by a prominent climate-change skeptic whose work was funded by fossil fuel interests.
A watchdog group called the Climate Investigations Center alerted nine scientific journals Monday that studies they published most likely breached conflict-of-interest protocols. The studies in question were co-authored by Willlie Soon, a prominent climate-change skeptic whose work was funded by fossil fuel interests.
The letters grew out of the release Saturday of public records showing that Soon failed to disclose industry funding in 11 studies published by those journals.
Soon's 11 papers show a spectrum of perspectives, from full-fledged denial of human-caused global warming to articles that downplay the role of climate change in ecological impacts. Many of the studies argue that changes in solar activity are responsible for rising global temperatures. Without exception, they question the extent, severity, cause or existence of man-made climate change.
Summaries of the 11 studies are listed in the chart and detailed further below: