Conservation & Environment

Exxon’s Climate Concealment

Posted by on Oct 11, 2015 @ 12:16 am in Conservation | 0 comments

Exxon’s Climate Concealment

Millions of Americans once wanted to smoke. Then they came to understand how deadly tobacco products were. Tragically, that understanding was long delayed because the tobacco industry worked for decades to hide the truth, promoting a message of scientific uncertainty instead.

The same thing has happened with climate change, as Inside Climate News, a nonprofit news organization, has been reporting in a series of articles based on internal documents from Exxon Mobil dating from the 1970s and interviews with former company scientists and employees.

Had Exxon been upfront at the time about the dangers of the greenhouse gases we were spewing into the atmosphere, we might have begun decades ago to develop a less carbon-intensive energy path to avert the worst impacts of a changing climate. Amazingly, politicians are still debating the reality of this threat, thanks in no small part to industry disinformation.

Government and academic scientists alerted policy makers to the potential threat of human-driven climate change in the 1960s and ’70s, but at that time climate change was still a prediction. By the late 1980s it had become an observed fact.

But Exxon was sending a different message, even though its own evidence contradicted its public claim that the science was highly uncertain and no one really knew whether the climate was changing or, if it was changing, what was causing it.

Exxon (which became Exxon Mobil in 1999) was a leader in these campaigns of confusion.

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How the U.S. Army Saved Our National Parks

Posted by on Oct 10, 2015 @ 8:54 am in Conservation | 0 comments

How the U.S. Army Saved Our National Parks

When Capt. Moses Harris and his troops from Company M, First Cavalry marched into Yellowstone in August 1886, the world’s first national park was in chaos.

Fourteen years of corrupt or incompetent management by political appointees threatened its existence. There had been little protection of the park’s natural wonders. Congressional funding was an afterthought. But by the time the Army handed Yellowstone’s administration to the fledgling National Park Service 30 years later, it had set in motion policies and procedures that would serve as the model for park management for decades to come.

“The Army went a long way towards protecting an area that had very little protection and turned it into a place of relative tranquility, where tourists could enjoy it while also protecting its wonders.” Without that intervention, “Congress might have thrown up its hands and turned it over to private settlement. There certainly were a fair number of voices yelling for that in Congress.”

Yellowstone was designated as a national park in 1872, and the Department of the Interior was charged with the “preservation, from injury or spoliation, of all timber, mineral deposits, natural curiosities, or wonders within said park, and their retention in their natural condition.”

But prior to Harris’ arrival, rampant poaching so endangered bison, elk, deer and other animals that Buffalo Bill Cody had written a letter to the New York Sun pleading for protections. Timber cutting and grazing left swaths of land devastated. Fires set by angry settlers—there were three large blazes ongoing at the time of Harris’s arrival—destroyed acre after acre. Vandals sliced fragile pieces of ornate travertine with axes to sell as souvenirs and signed their names on geyser formations.

Congress was so angry with the inept administration of the park that it refused to allocate funds. As part of a compromise agreement funding the park, control shifted to the military, under the direction of the Department of the Interior.

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Massive Coral Bleaching Event Is Sweeping Across The World’s Oceans

Posted by on Oct 9, 2015 @ 7:29 am in Conservation | 0 comments

For the third time in recorded history, a massive coral bleaching event is unfolding throughout the world’s oceans, stretching from Hawaii to the Indian Ocean.

A group of ocean scientists from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) confirmed this bleaching event is being brought on by a combination of a strong El Niño pattern, a warm water mass in the Pacific called “the Blob,” and increasingly warming ocean temperatures brought on by climate change.

This potentially lethal mixture of elements is expected to impact about 38 percent of the world’s coral reefs by the end of this year and kill over 4,633 square miles of reefs. NOAA predicts that by the end of 2015, almost 95 percent of U.S. coral reefs will have been exposed to ocean conditions that can cause corals to bleach.

“This is already an unusually long time” for a coral bleaching event to be going on, said Mark Eakin, NOAA’s Coral Reef Watch coordinator. “And El Niño is expected to continue well in to next year, so it is expected to that this will start all over again in 2016 and may get worse.”

A World Wild Life study released last month predicted losing all coral reefs by 2050 due to warming oceans and ocean acidification. Coral reef ecosystems make up only 0.1 percent of ocean area, but nearly a quarter of all marine species depend on them to survive and rely on their habitat.

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Not Even National Parks Are Safe From Fracking

Posted by on Oct 8, 2015 @ 9:30 am in Conservation | 0 comments

America’s national parks cover nearly 52 million acres — an area roughly the size of Kansas — and contain some of the most incredible natural landscapes in the country. Sweeping valleys, frosted mountain peaks and immaculate waterways host a range of incredible wildlife, many of which are threatened or endangered.

National parks are also public lands, maintained by the federal government with taxpayer money. They are, quite literally, our land. But while national parks are highly protected, the land surrounding them — as well as other public land like national forests and state parks — are much more vulnerable to exploitation under U.S. law. Now, frackers want to take advantage of that. That’s bad news for the wildlife and waterways that cross park boundaries.

Oil and gas companies already have the rights to frack on some 30 million acres of public land in the United States, but they want more. In fact, they’re targeting more than 200 million additional acres of public lands for fracking, much of it in national forests, state parks and the areas surrounding national parks.

These are a few of the places at risk…

 

US Forest Service seeks applicants for Recreation Advisory Committee

Posted by on Oct 6, 2015 @ 8:48 pm in Conservation | 0 comments

Asheville, N.C. Oct 6, 2015 – The U.S. Forest Service is seeking nominations to fill 11 positions on a new Southern Region Recreation Resource Advisory Committee for national forests across the Southeast. The committee will take on the important task of recommending whether forests in 13 southern states and Puerto Rico adopt new recreation fees or change existing ones.

Potential nominees must represent the following forest-related interests:

Recreational uses including: camping, motorized recreation, non-motorized recreation, wildlife and nature viewing/visiting interpretive sites, hunting and fishing;

Environmental groups;
Outfitters and guides;
State tourism interests;
American Indian tribes; and
Local government interests

Members will be appointed for two or three-year terms based on the following criteria:

Which interest groups they represent and how well they are qualified to represent that group.
Why they want to serve on the committee and what they can contribute.
Their past experience in working successfully as part of a collaborative group.

Nominees’ demonstrated ability to represent minorities, women and persons with disabilities will be considered in membership selections. U.S. Department of Agriculture policies regarding equal opportunity will be followed.

Committee members will receive travel and per diem expenses for regularly scheduled meetings; however, they will not receive compensation.

The committee’s jurisdiction will cover the national forests in Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, North Carolina, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, Virginia and Puerto Rico.

More information is available by contacting Caroline Mitchell at 501-321-5318 or r8­_rrac@fs.fed.us. Completed nomination forms are due by Dec. 31, 2015 to: Recreation RAC Nomination, P.O. Box 1270, Hot Springs, Arkansas, 79102.

 

Food Industry To Congress: We Need You To Act On Climate Change

Posted by on Oct 5, 2015 @ 6:55 am in Conservation | 0 comments

Leaders from some of the world’s biggest food companies urged Congress to support a strong global agreement on climate action, in advance of the U.N. climate talks happening in Paris this December.

In a letter published in both the Washington Post and Financial Times, the chief executives from Mars, General Mills, Unilever, Kellogg, Nestle, New Belgium Brewing, Ben & Jerry’s, Clif Bar, Stonyfield Farm, and Dannon asked U.S. and global leaders to “meaningfully address the reality of climate change.”

“The challenge presented by climate change will require all of us — government, civil society and business — to do more with less. For companies like ours, that means producing more food on less land using fewer natural resources. If we don’t take action now, we risk not only today’s livelihoods, but those of future generations,” the letter reads. “We are asking you to embrace the opportunity presented to you in Paris, and to come back with a sound agreement, properly financed, that can affect real change.”

The letter comes at a time when corporations are ramping up their own sustainability goals — just last week, Nike, Walmart, Goldman Sachs, Johnson & Johnson, Proctor & Gamble, Salesforce, Starbucks, Steelcase, and Voya Financial all committed to transitioning to 100 percent renewable energy. But at a roundtable discussion on Capitol Hill, sustainability representatives from many of the food companies represented in the letter urged their industry to go farther than just internal sustainability commitments.

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Aspen stands in Southwest suffering from fungal disease

Posted by on Oct 4, 2015 @ 9:27 am in Conservation | 0 comments

Visitors marveling at the fall foliage in national forests might find that some of the aspen leaves are brown and blotchy or gone already.

Spores released from leaves and twigs that were infected by a fungus last summer were carried to new leaves by splashing rain and wind this year. The result is that instead of presenting golden yellow colors, leaves in some aspen stands across the Southwest have brown spots and blotches.

U.S. Forest Service officials say visitors shouldn’t fret because the discoloring isn’t widespread enough to ruin leaf-peeping trips.

Arizona cities near national forests where aspen are found at higher elevations got above-normal precipitation this monsoon season, including Alpine and Heber, in the Apache-Sitgreaves National Forest, and Flagstaff, surrounded by the Coconino National Forest.

Grayish areas in the center of the brown and blotchy spots indicate a presence of spores that could perpetuate the infection of aspen leaves if weather conditions are favorable for the disease.

Forest officials say they’re not expecting a die-off of aspen or significant loss in growth. However, successive annual epidemics of the disease can weaken or kill the root systems of aspens.

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Shell’s giving up drilling in the Arctic Ocean. Now what?

Posted by on Oct 3, 2015 @ 7:50 am in Conservation | 0 comments

On Sept. 28, 2015, Shell captured national attention when it announced that the exploratory well it drilled in hopes of extracting the first barrels of oil from Alaska’s Chukchi Sea was a bust. The company didn’t strike enough oil to make further exploration economically viable. Effective immediately, it’s backing out of the Arctic Ocean “for the foreseeable future.”

Environmentalists who spent the summer dangling off bridges and forming kayak blockades to protest Shell’s activities were overjoyed. “Here’s hoping Shell leaves the Arctic forever,” cheered Miyoko Sakashita, oceans program director for the Center for Biological Diversity.

But even as green groups urge the oil industry to abandon its Arctic dreams, some analysts are predicting the world’s growing population will require an additional 10 million barrels of oil a day between 2030 and 2040. And Alaska’s politicians are determined to get a piece of the pie: Alaska’s Arctic is estimated to hold the largest unexplored reserves in North America, and the state derives 90 percent of its revenue from oil and gas.

In recent years, production in the Alaskan Arctic has fallen at a rate of 5 percent a year. If it continues to decline and the price of oil stays low, the U.S. Energy Information Administration predicts that the Trans-Alaska Pipeline could be decommissioned as early as 2026. And if that happens, existing wells at Prudhoe Bay would be plugged and abandoned, sending the state’s economy into a death spiral. “It’s a huge disappointment,” Gov. Bill Walker said, of Shell’s announcement. “A really big disappointment.”

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Solar Company Announces Huge Step Forward In Efficiency

Posted by on Oct 3, 2015 @ 3:32 am in Conservation | 0 comments

Solar Company Announces Huge Step Forward In Efficiency

They are calling it the “most efficient rooftop solar module in the world.”

Residential solar company SolarCity announced that its Buffalo, New York “gigafactory” will be producing solar panels that are more efficient — and 30 percent more powerful — than its previous version.

This is good news for customers. Using more efficient, more powerful modules means homeowners will get more bang for their buck, so to speak. Installation costs go down. Hardware costs go down. SolarCity wins, too, of course.

Keith Emery, a scientist at the National Renewable Energy Laboratory, called the announcement a “very significant advancement, which should lower their cost, which should at the very least improve their profit — and I assume they will pass that on to their customers.” The module’s efficiency rate is comparable to other leading modules, Emery said.

Solar prices keep coming down. Average installed costs have fallen 9 percent since last year, according to the most recent report from the Lawrence Berkeley National Lab. The cost of residential solar has dropped 50 percent in the past five years. Economies of scale will also help push costs down, Emery said.

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Duke energy’s coal ash problems quietly spread

Posted by on Oct 2, 2015 @ 2:56 am in Conservation | 0 comments

It’s no surprise that Duke Energy’s legendary coal ash problems don’t stop at the North Carolina border. As you may remember, Duke pleaded guilty to nine criminal violations of the federal Clean Water Act as a result of a massive coal ash spill in 2014 and mismanagement of dozens of ash ponds in North Carolina.

Duke’s crimes landed the company a $102 million fine and five years of probation. During the probation, Duke must complete environmental audits of all its coal plants—including those in Indiana, Ohio, Kentucky, South Carolina and Florida—and take cleanup action when problems are found.

Duke Energy is the nation’s largest electric utility, but until the plea deal it had been mum about water contamination at its other plants. This changed during a recent meeting with Indiana state regulators. In a power point presentation, Duke Energy catalogued a long list of coal ash problems at five Indiana coal plants.

Duke gave regulators the run-down of problems at the Gibson, Cayuga and Wabash River power stations, which included dangerously contaminated water in residential wells near both the Gibson and Cayuga plants and a 7-foot diameter corrugated metal pipe in need of repair running under the Wabash River ash pond—much like the one that burst at Duke’s Dan River Plant. Duke also identified four historic coal ash dumps that require cleanup at retired or converted coal plants.

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America’s wildfire crisis is getting worse. Here’s what Congress can do.

Posted by on Oct 1, 2015 @ 3:51 am in Conservation | 0 comments

We have reached a new fire normal, a clear signal that a changing climate will inevitably require an adjustment to how we manage our forests if we wish to maintain the benefits they offer, such as providing half of our nation’s water supply.

In response to this unprecedented wildfire risk, for the first time in its history, the U.S. Forest Service will spend more than half of its budget fighting fires this year – three times what they were spending just 20 years ago. By 2025, if nothing changes, nearly two-thirds of the Service’s budget will be spent on putting out fires.

Ironically, this increased spending often comes at the cost of programs designed to prevent devastating megafires in the first place. Fortunately, there are two things Congress can do to improve the situation.

First, they can achieve one immediate fix by passing the Wildfire Disaster Funding Act. If passed, the act would fund the response to emergency fire disasters similar to how we fund responses to other natural disasters, such as hurricanes and floods.

Second, we need to step up to a new way of thinking about America’s forests by implementing the “National Cohesive Wildland Fire Management Strategy,” which was released in 2014 by the U.S. Departments of Interior and Agriculture.

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Arizona Trail Association receives State’s top Environmental Excellence Award

Posted by on Sep 29, 2015 @ 4:23 am in Conservation | 0 comments

Arizona Trail Association receives State’s top Environmental Excellence Award

The Arizona Trail Association (ATA) was given top honors at Arizona Forward’s 35th Annual Environmental Excellence Awards ceremony in Phoenix.

The ATA was awarded The Crescordia, the highest award given by Arizona Forward, for “their unique approach to fostering long-term environmental sustainability throughout the state” in addition to their Seeds of Stewardship program, encouraging youth engagement, environmental education and stewardship; their Gateway Community program, increasing tourism, business development and eco-linkages within 33 communities; health and wellness challenges for the business community; and supporting Warrior Hikers to “walk off the war” along the Arizona National Scenic Trail.

Arizona Forward initiated the Environmental Excellence Awards in 1980 to recognize outstanding contributions to the physical environment of Arizona’s communities. The awards serve as a benchmark for promoting sustainability, conserving natural resources and preserving the unique desert environment for future generations. To learn more, please visit www.arizonaforward.org.

 

Water Source for Alberta Tar Sands Drilling Could Run Dry

Posted by on Sep 28, 2015 @ 8:43 am in Conservation | 0 comments

The source of water used for drilling in the Alberta tar sands could dry up in the coming decades, according to new research. The questionable future of the Athabasca River threatens the longevity of fossil fuel extraction in the world’s third-largest crude oil reserve.

Scientists at the University of Regina and University of Western Ontario in Canada looked at 900 years of tree ring data and found water levels have dwindled along the 765-mile river at various points throughout its history.

The analysis, published in the peer-reviewed journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, shows the waterway has shrunk over the past 50 years as global warming has melted the glaciers that feed it. It also found the region has experienced several droughts that have lasted more than a decade in the last few centuries. Such a drought could likely happen in the near future, the scientists said.

The Alberta tar sands, which cover 55,000 square miles in western Canada, are estimated to contain approximately 1.7 trillion barrels of bitumen, a sticky, thick form of petroleum that can be extracted through both surface mining and drilling. Water is used to separate the bitumen from surrounding sediment, as well as to create steam that heats the oil so it flows into production wells.

Tar sands projects are already threatened by a slump in oil prices, as well as pending global action to address climate change. Tar sands drilling is a prominent target of environmental groups and climate activists because the oil emits an estimated three to four times more carbon dioxide when burned than conventional crude. Its water use only adds to the environmental costs.

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China Will Pony Up $3.1 Billion to Help Poor Countries Fight Climate Change

Posted by on Sep 28, 2015 @ 5:31 am in Conservation | 0 comments

China followed up its promise to create the world’s largest cap-and-trade program with yet another significant climate policy announcement: It will commit to spending $3.1 billion to help developing countries slash their greenhouse gas emissions and adapt to climate change.

China’s financial commitment, along with its new carbon market, are part of a comprehensive package of climate measures that were announced at a joint press conference featuring US President Barack Obama and Chinese President Xi Jinping in Washington, DC.

The new pledge, emerging from high-profile bilateral talks between the two countries, “is a game changer in international climate politics,” says Li Shuo, a climate policy analyst for Greenpeace. “It is a drastic increase from China’s previous finance commitments.”

“In terms of scale, 3.1 billion USD could even surpass the US pledge to the Green Climate Fund, which still faces a significant battle in the US Congress.”

Friday’s deal is “enormous in terms of the signal it sends to business and others investing in technology that the world has changed.”

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Cradle of Forestry Hosts Forest Festival Day and Woodsmen’s Meet

Posted by on Sep 25, 2015 @ 8:37 am in Conservation | 0 comments

Cradle of Forestry Hosts Forest Festival Day  and Woodsmen’s Meet

The Cradle of Forestry invites people of all ages to celebrate the heritage of western North Carolina during the annual Forest Festival Day on Saturday, Oct. 3, 2015 from 9:00 a.m.-5:00 p.m. This is the Cradle’s largest event of the year.

This activity-filled, family event commemorates the traditions of mountain living and craft in a unique and beautiful setting. More than 100 forestry students, traditional craftsmen and exhibitors will be on site during the celebration. During the event, eight colleges will compete for a trophy in the 20th Annual John G. Palmer Intercollegiate Woodsmen’s Meet, organized by Haywood Community College in Clyde, NC.

Festival-goers can cheer as college forestry students compete during the Woodsmen’s Meet that has the flavor of an old-time lumberjack competition. Students will test their skills in a number of events including archery, axe throwing, crosscut sawing and pole felling. Spectators of the Woodsmen’s Meet are encouraged to bring a chair or blanket for comfort.

Due to the growing popularity of the event and the limited space for spectators, the Woodmen’s Meet is held in the open field at the Pink Beds Picnic Area. The larger space allows for increased safety of participants and spectators while at the same time providing a better view for those wanting to see all the action.

The Pink Beds Picnic Area and Pink Beds trailhead will be closed to non-event use for the day. The Pink Beds Trail can be accessed from FS Road 1206 via the Barnett Branch Trail and from the South Mills River gauging station area off Wolf Ford Road FS 476.

Traditional crafters and exhibitors will congregate along the trails. These include demonstrations of whittling, wood carving and turning, horse and mule packing, blacksmithing, primitive skills and creating corn husk dolls. Festival goers can learn to cut a tree “cookie” with a cross cut saw to take home.

Falconry demonstrations will be from 11:00 to 3:00. Old fashioned wagon rides will be offered from 11:00 to 2:00. For a complete list of activities, exhibitors and demonstrations during Forest Festival Day visit www.cradleofforestry.com, or call the Cradle at (828) 877-3130.

Accents on Asheville will provide a shuttle between the Forest Discovery Center and the Pink Beds for those unable to walk the trail to the Woodsmen’s Meet. Hob Nob at the Cradle will sell food.

Forest heritage is a focal point of the festival, and the Cradle of Forestry is the birthplace of modern forestry in America. Dr. Carl Alwin Schenck, forester for George Vanderbilt’s Biltmore Estate from 1895 – 1909, founded America’s first forestry school in 1898 and used the present Cradle of Forestry area as its summer campus. At that time the word “forestry” was a vague and new idea in this nation. Schenck encouraged his students and timberland owners to manage forests for the future. Forest Festival Day celebrates this heritage and our forest lands today.

Admission for this event is $6.00 for ages 16 and older; $3.00 for youth ages 4-15, and holders of America the Beautiful and Golden Age passes. Children under 4 years old are admitted free. The Cradle of Forestry is located four miles south of Parkway Milepost 412 on Hwy. 276 in the Pisgah National Forest, six miles north of Looking Glass Falls.

 

So what happens when America’s seniors find out what climate change means for their grandkids?

Posted by on Sep 24, 2015 @ 8:43 am in Conservation | 0 comments

Few things strike fear into the hearts of politicians like a disgruntled grandparent entering a voting booth. Seniors wield immense political power in the United States, a fact made plain by their voting record. In the 2014 midterm elections, a year of historically low voter turnout, nearly 59 percent of adults aged 65 and older pulled the lever on Election Day. Just 23 percent of 18- to 24-year-olds bothered to do the same. It’s numbers like these that have made Social Security and Medicare the third rail of American politics.

Recently, dozens of retirees descended on Capitol Hill to advocate for climate action. Organized by the Conscious Elders Network, the Grandparents Climate Action Day brought together seniors from around the country. Following a day of training, during which renowned NASA climatologist James Hansen spoke to those assembled, the gray-haired activists headed for the Hill. They urged their representatives to support the Clean Power Plan and they advocated for pricing carbon emissions using systems like cap and dividend.

Although casual observers of politics will note that common sense often carries little weight on Capitol Hill, lawmakers answer to political pressure. They answer to the threats of party leaders, to the pleas of rich financial backers, and to the angry letters of aggrieved constituents.

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Emerald Ash Borer and its Enemy Wasps

Posted by on Sep 24, 2015 @ 5:34 am in Conservation | 0 comments

Since emerald ash borer was first detected in Michigan in 2002, the non-native invasive beetle has killed tens of millions of ash trees across the U.S., and continues to infest new regions, including Great Smoky Mountains National Park.

Within its native range in Asia, emerald ash borer is attacked by a variety of predators including several species of parasitoid wasps that specialize on the beetle’s eggs or larvae. Because these wasps are expected to play a role in maintaining low emerald ash borer populations in Asia, three species have been introduced into North America as biocontrol agents. “There is great interest in knowing how effective these introductions have been in reducing the population growth rates of emerald ash borer in North America,” says U.S. Forest Service Southern Research Station (SRS) scientist Michael Ulyshen.

In addition to the introduced biocontrol agents, some native wasps have also been shown to parasitize emerald ash borer larvae, and birds – especially woodpeckers – eat the larvae and pupae. From 2007 to 2010, the researchers released thousands of non-native predatory wasps in experimental release plots in forests of southern Michigan.

Both native enemies and introduced parasitic wasps play important roles in suppressing emerald ash borer populations. Non-native parasitic wasps can help prevent widespread ash tree death in newly infested forests, and the scientists recommend that they be released as soon as the presence of emerald ash borer has been detected. The non-native wasps also keep emerald ash borer populations low in forests that have already been invaded.

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