Pulitzer winning climate news.
facebook twitter subscribe
view counter

Tweets

ICNfreesubscription

KeystoneBeyondPreviewBlock

Donate to InsideClimate News through our secure page on Network for Good.

EagleFordProjectPreviewBlock

BloombergLegacyPreviewBlock

CleanBreakAdAmazon

Guest Writer's articles

Japan Accident Shows Dilemma Over Nuclear Plant Sites

Crisis exposes dilemma of whether to build reactors on tsunami-prone coasts or inland sites where water supplies are already unreliable from climate change

Alister Doyle, Reuters

Mar 15, 2011
Japan's Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear power plant

Japan's nuclear accident exposes the dilemma of whether to build power plants on tsunami-prone coasts or inland sites where water supplies are unreliable, a problem likely to be aggravated by climate change, experts say.

Many of the world's 442 nuclear power reactors are by the sea, rather than by lakes or rivers, to ensure vast water supplies for cooling fuel rods in emergencies like that at the Fukushima plant on Japan's east coast.

"It's quite a conundrum," said Ian Jackson, a nuclear energy fellow at Chatham House in Britain. "If you are in a geologically stable area, a coastal location is still the best option."

Obama Vows to Dampen Fuel Prices, Calls for Energy Reform

Pres. Obama summoned lawmakers 'to work together' to reduce energy demand and end reliance on oil in order 'to finally secure America's energy future'

By Jeff Mason, Reuters

Mar 11, 2011
President Obama in the Oval Office

WASHINGTON—The United States must reduce its dependence on oil and begin to reform energy policy, President Barack Obama said on Friday, pledging to do all he could to keep gasoline prices low.

Obama, whose prospects for re-election in 2012 may hinge partly on fuel prices and their effect on the economy, said the world could manage oil supply disruptions stemming from unrest in Libya and violence across the Middle East and North Africa.

He said he was prepared to tap U.S. strategic oil reserves quickly if necessary, though he declined to say what price oil would have to hit in order to trigger such intervention.

The White House has emphasized repeatedly that Obama is aware of the strain that rising fuel prices place on Americans' budgets. The White House rejects criticism from Republicans that its policies have led to less domestic oil production — a theme that may surface in the 2012 campaign.

Water Checks Deficient at Canada Oil Sands: Report

An Alberta government-sponsored scientific panel has backed claims that oil sands development is polluting waterways, and urges more stringent monitoring

By Jeffrey Jones, Reuters

Mar 10, 2011
oil sands mining Sunco

CALGARY, ALBERTA—A government-sponsored scientific committee studying water monitoring in Canada's oil sands has backed assertions that multibillion-dollar energy developments are polluting waterways and it urges more stringent oversight.

The report by the independent scientists, appointed by Alberta Premier Ed Stelmach, said an incendiary study by water ecologists last year appeared to be right in its contention that toxic substances downstream from the developments do not occur naturally.

An industry-funded body had long said heavy metals and polycyclic aromatic aromatic compounds, or PACs, found in the Athabasca River watershed north of Fort McMurray, in northern Alberta, occurred naturally as bitumen leached into the river.

EU Commission Report Urges 25% Carbon Emissions Cut by 2020

Connie Hedegaard, the EU climate change commissioner, fended off intense pressure from lobbyists who opposed raising the target from 20 percent

By Fiona Harvey, Guardian

Mar 8, 2011
EU climate change commissioner Connie Hedegaard

Europe's climate chief has beaten off intense lobbying from businesses to secure a key victory in the battle over greenhouse gas targets.

Connie Hedegaard, the EU climate change commissioner, published on Tuesday afternoon her long-awaited report into how the EU can toughen its climate targets in a cost-effective manner, with a proposal that the EU could raise its current targets on emissions cuts from 20 percent emissions cuts to 25 percent cuts by 2020.

Despite pressure from business groups to remove the proposal, and retain a clear commitment to stick at the lower 20 percent target, it remained in the final draft of the "roadmap to 2050," seen by the Guardian ahead of publication.

Decades After Spill, Exxon Valdez Case Back in Court

An Alaska environmentalist is seeking to persuade a federal judge to compel Exxon to pay an unpaid $92 million claim, plus another $23 million in interest

By Yereth Rosen, Reuters

Mar 6, 2011
oil spill cleanup Exxon Valdez
ANCHORAGE, ALASKA— More than two decades after the Exxon Valdez supertanker struck a reef and unleashed the nation's biggest tanker spill, a lingering legal dispute about the disaster was back in court on Friday.

At issue in a U.S. District Court hearing in Anchorage is an unpaid $92 million claim by the U.S. Justice Department and the state of Alaska for what they consider long-term environmental damage unexpected at the time of the grounding.

The claim was made five years ago under a special "reopener" provision of the governments' 1991 civil settlement with Exxon, in which the oil company paid $900 million.

That money was paid over a decade into a trust account that funds environmental restoration projects and scientific work.

But persisting environmental impacts prompted the federal and state governments to present the reopener bill to Exxon Mobil, Exxon Corp's successor.

As U.S. Moves Ahead with Nuclear Power, No Solution for Radioactive Waste

A pair of legal actions against the Nuclear Regulatory Commission raises fresh questions over how and where to store the nation's growing nuclear waste

By Abby Luby

Mar 3, 2011
Three Mile Island nuclear station

President Obama has won wide bipartisan support for his determination to revive American nuclear power — a low-carbon energy solution that electric utilities and conservatives can support.

But a pair of legal actions last month could complicate matters for Washington by forcing the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) to address a longstanding and almost intractable problem: How and where to store the highly radioactive waste.

For many, the separate suits by state attorneys general and environmental groups raise fresh questions over why America is pouring billions into a nuclear renaissance with no long-term strategy for handling waste from the nation's existing facilities.

"The waste problem is the Achilles heel of the nuclear industry," said Daniel Hirsch, president of the Committee to Bridge the Gap, a California-based nuclear watchdog.

Trial Begins for Activist Accused of Crashing Utah Drilling Auction

Tim DeChristopher, who bid $1.7 million for oil and gas leases he couldn't pay for, faces up to 10 years in prison in a trial expected to end Thursday

By Bibi van der Zee, Guardian

Feb 28, 2011
Tim DeChristopher speaking to the media

Editor's Note: In advance of Tim DeChristopher's trial, SolveClimate News conducted exclusive interviews with the environmental activist on why he chose to cross legal boundaries. The seven-part video series can be viewed here: Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4, Part 5, Part 6, Part 7.

The trial has begun of a U.S. activist accused of sabotaging an oil and gas land auction by bidding $1.7 million for land parcels that he could not pay for. Tim DeChristopher, whose case has attracted support from high-profile environmentalists including actor Daryl Hannah and environmentalist Bill McKibben, faces up to 10 years' jail if found guilty.

At an auction in Utah on 19 December, 2008 — the last before the end of George Bush's term in office, and seen as a gift for the oil and gas industry — 130,000 acres of land near pristine areas of Utah such as Nine Mile Canyon and Dinosaur National Monument were due to be sold off.

After Years of Resisting, Alberta Admits Need for Strict Oil Sands Monitoring

Government and oil sands industry finally agree with environmentalists on need to rigorously measure the full impact of oil sands development

By Mathew Klie-Cribb

Feb 25, 2011
Syncrude's Mildred Lake plant

FT. MCMURRAY, ALBERTA—For years, Alberta's government has been under fire for weak monitoring of oil sands development on rivers and lakes. Now it's finally answering its critics, by commissioning a special review that aims to reassure the world that its booming industry is being developed with the utmost scrutiny.

Over the next several months, a panel of experts from health, science, regulatory and public administration backgrounds will look at how the government can rebuild a state-of-the-art monitoring system and regain the public trust, which has eroded not only in Canada, but globally.

In early February, the new group met for the first time to review current monitoring capacity, starting with "aquatics," the most criticized area, and branching out to air quality and wider environmental impacts.

The panel has until June 2011 to report back.

In Thawing Arctic, Fragile Food Web at Risk of Unraveling (Part II)

A fishing ban against Arctic cod may forestall trouble for the bottom of the food web. Higher up, seals are already disappearing from lack of snow and ice

By Bruce Barcott, OnEarth

Feb 24, 2011
Scientist with seal

The Arctic Ocean is so cold that only a handful of fish and marine mammals can survive there. Subsurface temperatures range from 37.4 degrees Fahrenheit on a warm summer day to 28.76 degrees, the freezing point of seawater.

In those extreme conditions, one fish species in the center of the Arctic food web is uniquely equipped to thrive: the Arctic cod.

A slender and smaller cousin of the Pacific and Atlantic cod, the Arctic cod is often seen near the underside of the ice, feeding on pteropods, copepods, krill, worms, and small fish. It uses cracks and seams in the ice much as tropical fish use a coral reef: as a refuge from predators.

Its survival in these heat-sapping waters depends on two things: blood and fat.

Under Climate Stress, California Wine Country Tries to Shrink Carbon Footprint

Fetzer Vineyards and others are switching to solar energy and biodiesel fuel, as a new breed of ethical consumer is forcing wineries to decarbonize

By Joseph Mayton

Feb 20, 2011

California's wine industry is under threat from global warming, and while the problem is too big for the wineries to handle on their own, some are trying to lead by example by doing things like installing solar panels and using less glass in their bottling plants.

"There are strong initiatives in the wine industry to reduce climate change impacts," said Ann Thrupp, the director of sustainability at Fetzer Vineyards in Northern California, in an interview.

Areas suitable for growing wine grapes in the United States, the fourth largest wine producer behind France, Italy and Spain, could shrink by as much as 81 percent by the end of the century due to rising temperatures, according to research published in the National Academy of Sciences. The Northern California Napa and Sonoma valleys would be hit the hardest.

Climate change would trigger more extreme heat waves, harming premium wine grapes that need stable temperatures to flourish by causing them to overripen from too much sugar.