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- Thu Apr 2, 2020 - A cruel April Fools' day prank on the economy and the environment
On Tuesday, March 31, the Trump Administration announced it was rolling back Obama-era auto emission targets. Unfortunately, this is not an April Fools' Day joke -- it is official government policy, policy that makes a mockery of the name of one of the sponsoring agencies: The Environmental Protection Agency.
Even for those gentle readers who are somehow not convinced of the overwhelming scientific evidence of fossil carbon emission-based climate change, the present Administration's rollback of efficiency requirements is simply bad public policy.
Its economic effects on consumers is damaging. Its likely effect on the competitiveness of American automakers is negative. Especially considering the current COVID-19 pandemic, its implications for public health are poor. And its effects on the global environment will be particularly bad at this critical time for human civilization.
Negative Effects on Consumers
Even if you have no interest in human civilization's future su
- Thu Apr 2, 2020 - Oceans can be successfully restored by 2050, say scientists
Despite being treated as humanity's rubbish dump for decades, the oceans of the world are proving remarkably resilient, says a new scientific review.
Building on that resilience could lead to a full recovery within three decades, the researchers argue.
Climate change, and the challenges of scaling up existing conservation efforts, are the big hurdles, they say.
The researchers caution that the window for action is now very narrow.
The oceans have been exploited by humans for centuries, but the negative impacts of our involvement have only become clear over the last 50 years or so.
Fish and other marine species have been hunted almost to extinction, while oil spills and other forms of pollution have poisoned the seas.
Over the last few decades, the growing influence of climate change has bleached corals, and seen the ocean's acidity increase. This was documented in last year's special report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC).
This new review
- Thu Apr 2, 2020 - Why Alberta is throwing billions behind the Keystone XL pipeline
With the energy sector still reeling from weeks of economic turmoil, Alberta's United Conservative government announced Tuesday it is throwing its financial heft behind the long-delayed Keystone XL pipeline.
The investment of $1.5 billion, plus a $6-billion loan guarantee, aims to accelerate construction of the massive project and was warmly greeted by a sector desperate for some good news.
Still, the enormity of the investment will also raise many questions --- including, why now?
But as with many things in Alberta over the years, the answer can often be found at the intersection of oil, government and politics. Now, the stakes feel higher than ever for an industry with an unsettled future.
\'You remember what the UCP slogan of the election campaign was, right? It was economy, jobs, pipelines,\' said Duane Bratt, a political scientist at Mount Royal University in Calgary. \'This fits all three of those.\'
Rough time in oil patch
For industry, there's little ques
- Thu Apr 2, 2020 - How we will all solve the climate crisis
NOT LONG AGO, in more innocent times, I was driving with my three sons back from trying to ski on a mountain that doesn't really have snow anymore, and we were talking about climate change. This was before the pandemic, and before our conversations shifted to discussions of what viruses are and why soap, miraculously, can kill them.
The kids are 11, 9, and 6, and they're worried about the present and upset about the future, as they should be. They know that their adult years will be spent in a world of raging fires, flash floods, and mass extinction. They love Greta and resent their elders. The future feels different and vaster when the actuarial tables give you 80 years to go, not 40.
We talked about turning our thermostats down, eating less meat, and putting the cable box on a smart plug. I promised to install solar panels. I tried futilely to explain what capitalism is and why it was still a reasonable way to organize human affairs, despite CO2 levels now reaching 415 ppm. I t
- Wed Apr 1, 2020 - Oil companies on tumbling prices: 'Disastrous, devastating'
The once mighty oil industry is shrinking quickly around the world, hunkering down in survival mode.
With the coronavirus pandemic all but eliminating travel and commutes, demand for energy is tumbling, and oil companies from Algeria to West Texas are slashing budgets. Refineries are cutting production of gasoline, diesel and jet fuel. Pipeline operators are telling producers that they can ship crude only if there is a buyer willing to take the fuel because storage tanks are filling up fast. And American oil companies are dropping rigs, dismissing fracking crews and beginning to shut down wells.
As much as 20 percent, or 20 million barrels a day, of oil demand may be lost as the global economy slows, according to the International Energy Agency. That is roughly equivalent to eliminating all U.S. consumption. To make matters worse, Saudi Arabia and Russia are increasing oil production to regain market share from American oil companies that increased production and exports in recen
- Wed Apr 1, 2020 - Antarctica experiences first known heat wave
Scientists have recorded Antarctica's first documented heat wave, warning that animal and plant life on the isolated continent could be drastically affected by climate change.
Australian Antarctic Program researchers recorded the heat wave event at Casey research station in East Antarctica during the 2019-2020 southern hemisphere summer.
Findings by the team were published in the Global Change Biology journal on Tuesday, with authors warning that the changes could affect global weather patterns.
Between January 23 and 26, a research team at Casey --- directly south of Perth in western Australia --- recorded the highest maximum and minimum temperatures ever seen at the base.
During the period, minimum temperatures were higher than zero degrees Celsius (32 degrees Fahrenheit) while the maximums peaked above 7.5 degrees.
On January 24, the Casey team recorded a record high temperature of 9.2 degrees Celsius, 6.9 degrees higher than the station's mean maximum.
- Wed Apr 1, 2020 - Cash-strapped coal giant Murray Energy faces liquidation
Bankrupt coal miner Murray Energy Corp. could be forced to liquidate unless a federal judge lets it cut health-care payments to retirees, according to court papers.
Murray Energy, the largest private coal miner in the U.S., is asking the judge overseeing its Chapter 11 bankruptcy to let it shed certain health-care obligations in a bid to stave off a default under its bankruptcy loan and conserve cash, the court papers show.
Stopping the health-care payments would save the company $200,000 a day -- some $6 million a month -- and wouldn't hurt the retirees because the benefits are backstopped by the U.S. government, according to the request.
\'The bottom line is that if the debtors do not cut off these obligations in the near term, they will likely exhaust liquidity during these cases,\' attorneys for the company wrote in the papers, adding that Murray Energy \'may be faced with no choice but to begin a value-destructive enterprise-wide liquidation.\'
- Wed Apr 1, 2020 - Plastics industry insiders reveal the truth about recycling
It was the late 1980s, and the plastics industry was under fire.
Facing heightened public concern about ever-increasing amounts of garbage, the image of plastics was falling dramatically. State and local officials across the country were considering banning some kinds of plastics in an effort to reduce waste and pollution.
But the industry had a plan; a way to fend off plastic bans and keep its sales growing.
It would publicly promote recycling as the solution to the waste crisis --- despite internal industry doubts, from almost the beginning, that widespread plastic recycling could ever be economically viable.
The strategy --- and doubts --- are revealed in Plastic Wars, an upcoming investigative documentary from FRONTLINE and NPR.
In the documentary, three top executives who represented the plastics industry in that pivotal era speak publicly for the first time, shedding new light on the industry's efforts to overcome growing concern about plastic waste by pushing recy
- Tue Mar 31, 2020 - A dirty economic restart could kill more people than the coronavirus
The coronavirus lockdown hasn't just slowed the march of COVID-19, it has reduced lethal air pollution and the associated mortality risks we usually take for granted. But when the lockdown lifts, those risks of the status quo might not just return to normal---they might worsen---as governments weaken environmental regulations and pour billions of dollars into polluting industries.
\'I think that in the long run this crisis will be a disaster for the climate,\' said Francois Gemenne, director of The Hugo Observatory, a Belgium-based research center. \'Of course there are short-term effects on the environment: a substantial drop in air pollution, a fall in greenhouse gas emissions, etc. But in the long term, these temporary effects will probably be insignificant.\'
Air pollution, which causes an estimated 7 million deaths annually, has plunged worldwide during the coronavirus lockdown as factories have closed, power demand dropped, and traffic evaporated.
The European Space Agency a
- Tue Mar 31, 2020 - Yes, electric cars are cleaner, even when the power comes from coal
One argument against electric vehicles (EVs) made by those that wish to cling to the certainties of the internal combustion engine is that we need to decarbonise the power system first otherwise cars are no cleaner than if they use gasoline.
Many observers question whether electric cars really are 'greener' once emissions from production and generating their electricity are taken into account.
Leaving aside the instant improvements in local air quality from not having harmful tailpipe emissions pumping into the atmosphere, a new study suggests that EVs help to tackle climate change in all but the most coal-reliant countries.
A new study by the universities of Exeter and Cambridge in the UK and Nijmegen in the Netherlands has concluded that electric cars lead to lower carbon emissions overall, even if electricity generation still relies on fossil fuels. The results are reported in the journal Nature Sustainability.
Under current conditions, driving an electric car is better