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Today's Climate

August 22, 2014

Deep in the hilly grasslands of remote Inner Mongolia, twin smoke stacks rise more than 200 feet into the sky, their steam and sulfur billowing over herds of sheep and cattle. Both day and night, the rumble of this power plant echoes across the ancient steppe, and its acrid stench travels dozens of miles away.
(Wall Street Journal (sub. req'd))
Belgian authorities are racing to map out emergency plans in case of a severe energy crunch this winter. The country could face energy shortfalls in the depths of winter after the sudden closure of three major nuclear power plants over the past months.
The key to the slowdown in global warming in recent years could lie in the depths of the Atlantic and Southern Oceans where excess heat is being stored – not the Pacific Ocean as has previously been suggested, according to new research.
(Climate Central)
Climate change is driving the Greenland Ice Sheet to melt, which is contributing to sea level rise. But imagine that the same amount of water melting from Greenland each year is being lost in California and the rest of the West because of the epic drought there.

August 21, 2014

The cleanup of a 5,000-gallon fuel oil spill from a Duke Energy Corp power plant into the Ohio River could stretch into Thursday, Duke said on Wednesday, as the U.S. Coast Guard reopened a 15-mile section of the river to limited traffic.
(Philadelphia Inquirer)
A coalition of doctors, nurses, and environmental groups is calling on the Pennsylvania Gov. Corbett administration to address citizen complaints more comprehensively and better track potential health effects related to natural-gas drilling.
(Orlando Sentinel)
After months of dodging questions about climate change, Gov. Rick Scott met today with a panel of climate scientists who have been trying to brief him on the human influence on global warming. Then he quickly left the office without answering any questions.
(Wall Street Journal)
U.S. economic growth accelerated in the second half of 2013 before unexpectedly contracting early this year. But growth late last year was uneven across the nation, with some energy-rich states leading the pack while economies slowed in New England and on the Plains.
North Carolina lawmakers Wednesday passed new legislation they say will regulate coal-ash pits and clean up decades of toxic waste generated by coal-burning electricity plants. The House and Senate approved the legislation six months after a spill at a Duke Energy power plant near Eden coated 70 miles of the Dan River in toxic sludge and ignited debate about the safety of 32 other coal-ash dumps across the state.
(Charlotte Observer)
Fracking foes booed, jeered, hissed, chanted, snickered, sang–and one even wept–at a Raleigh public hearing Wednesday to vent their frustration about proposed rules that would clear the way for shale gas exploration in North Carolina next year. Around 500 people turned out in the middle of the day at the N.C. State University's McKimmon Center for the first of four public hearings to hear comments about the proposed safety rules. Many warned of plummeting property values, radioactive waste, and dangerous chemicals leaching into aquifers and waterways.
(Midwest Energy News)
A lawsuit filed by an Ohio company last month seeks to remove two anti-fracking billboards near a wastewater site it operates. While the case is a test of free speech, critics say it also reflects a broader reluctance for businesses and regulatory agencies in the state to adequately inform citizens about shale gas activities and address their concerns.
(Washington Post)
NextGen Climate Action, the outside group run by billionaire environmentalist Tom Steyer, took a new tack in its attempts to bolster Democrats' chances in the Iowa Senate race this week. Its first ad, you migh recall, was a mini-play suggesting that Republican Joni Ernst had sold her soul to some shadowy cabal of dudes worried about tax breaks or something. The new ad is more to the point.
The world's largest private-sector coal company has been banned from using an advert that implied its technology was not polluting.
(International Business Times)
China's coal consumption has declined for the first time in about 100 years in the first half of 2014, as the world's second largest economy is striving to achieve cleaner growth by declaring a "war on pollution". Activist group Greenpeace International said in a blog post that China's coal use seems to have dropped in the first half of 2014, with halted growth of imports and declined domestic production.
(The Globe and Mail)
The engineer whose train derailed in Lac-Mégantic last year did not believe it was the source of the disaster until a dispatcher gave him the news more than two hours after the crash, transcripts from that night suggest. The Globe and Mail obtained the text of a series of conversations that took place on the night of the accident between Montreal, Maine & Atlantic Railway engineer Tom Harding and someone identified only as RJ at company offices.
The first ever international public conference on geoengineering, the deliberate tinkering with Earth's atmosphere, is under way in Berlin. Researchers there are considering a call for stringent controls on future field experiments aimed at finding ways to curb climate change. Geoengineering ideas have included pumping particulates into the atmosphere to deflect sunlight and installing mirrors in space.
(National Journal)
Republicans may have a new reason to worry they won't win over Hispanic voters. An analysis of nine polls tracking Hispanic voter preference released Wednesday shows that Hispanics are increasingly anxious about global warming and environmental conservation. That could put Latinos at odds with Republican lawmakers in Congress who deny man-made global warming and denounce President Obama's plan to cut air pollution from power plants.
It's been almost four months since the Obama Administration ordered railroads to start giving state emergency officials details about their shipments of crude oil. The idea was that since these trains have a tendency to explode, and since they're often rolling right through the middle of towns and cities, the least they could do would be to tell local firefighters when they're coming. Not that municipal departments necessarily have the tools or resources to deal with 400-foot fireballs—but hey, knowing's half the battle. Right, kids?

August 20, 2014

A $100 million fund launched on Tuesday aims to make people in disaster-prone regions of Asia and Africa better able to cope with natural disasters and crises, so that they can get their lives and economies back on track more quickly and effectively.
(Los Angeles Times)
Drought conditions may have leveled off across California, but nearly 100 percent of the state remains in the third-harshest category for dryness, according to the latest measurements. For the past two weeks, California's drought picture has remained the same, halting a steady march toward worse. But the breather has allowed the state to recover only ever so slightly.
Enbridge Inc. (ENB)'s pipeline to carry tar sands oil between Oklahoma and Illinois can proceed, a federal judge ruled, as companies expand their capacity to move petroleum in the U.S. "Because a private company is constructing the 589-mile pipeline on mostly privately owned land that is entirely within the territorial borders of the United States, no federal statute authorizes the federal government to oversee or regulate the construction project," U.S. District Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson in Washington said today in a written ruling.
(The Globe and Mail)
The Transportation Safety Board examined the complex series of events leading to last year's derailment in Lac-Mégantic that killed 47 people. The events included a faulty repair on the lead locomotive's engine, a lack of sufficient handbrakes, weak safety training for Montreal, Maine & Atlantic staff and a failure of federal oversight. Here's a timeline based on details in the 191-page report.
(The Hill)
The Coast Guard moved Tuesday toward increasing the maximum liability limits for oil spills that hit waterways and shorelines. The federal government is supposed to update the liability ceilings every three years to reflect changes in inflation, as measured by the Consumer Price Index. The first increase came in 2010.
Anti-fracking protesters caused peaceful disruption at several locations on Monday, gluing themselves to the doors of a government department, occupying a building used by an energy firm and blockading access to a test drilling site.
(Detroit Free Press)
As other states ban landfills from accepting low-level radioactive waste, up to 36 tons of the sludge already rejected by two other states was slated to arrive in Michigan late last week.
(Houston Public Media)
The oil and gas industry added 10,500 new jobs over the second quarter, according to industry news service Rigzone. That’s a two-thirds increase over the same period in 2013. Between April and June, companies in the oil and gas sector added more than 4,000 new positions in Texas. That gave the Lone Star State a commanding lead in job creation for the industry. Louisiana came in second, with about 600 new oil and gas jobs. Alaska took third with 500.
(StateImpact Pennsylvania)
Drillers in Pennsylvania continue to produce record-breaking amounts of natural gas, according to new numbers released this week from the state Department of Environmental Protection.
(New York Times)
The threats from climate change are many: extreme weather, shrinking snowpack, altered ecosystems and rising and more acidic seas, to name a few. Another lesser-known issue may hit especially close to home for city dwellers. In the world's already smoggy metropolises, pollution is likely to grow worse, a phenomenon scientists have taken to calling the climate penalty.
(Los Angeles Daily News)
Respiratory illnesses, water quality, and mosquito- and rodent-related diseases will worsen across Los Angeles County in the next few decades because of climate change, according to two reports released Monday by public health officials. "Climate change is arguably the biggest health threat of this century," said Dr. Jonathan Fielding, director of Los Angeles County Department of Public Health.
(Climate Central)
As the sea ice covering the Arctic continues to shrink under the influence of greenhouse gas-induced warming, it's causing a host of other changes in the region, including the growth of large waves in the previously iced-over areas. Those waves could potentially reinforce and hasten the demise of sea ice, leading to further changes in the fragile polar realm.