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The Environment

  • Are We Falling Off the Climate Precipice?

    I grew up planning for my future, wondering which college I would attend, what to study, and later on, where to work, which articles to write, what my next book might be, how to pay a mortgage, and which mountaineering trip I might like to take next.Now, I wonder about the future of our planet. During a recent visit with my eight-year-old niece and 10- and 12-year-old nephews, I stopped myself from asking them what they wanted to do when they grew up, or any of the future-oriented questions I used to ask myself. I did so because the reality…

  • Is China an Environmental Steward, Demon or Magician?

    China’s growing role as the world’s largest contributor to greenhouse gas emissions is undisputed. China is the epicenter of building out environmental markets as it struggles to balance the need for economic growth and climate protection.  But is China’s leadership sincere and capable to stem the tide of environmental doom? On the world stage, China's Reaction to the New IPCC Climate Change Report is loud but feeble. Their “710-page Second National Assessment Report on Climate Change, warns that China itself faces extremely grim ecological and environmental consequences from global warming. Even at the recent Conference of Parties (COP), China announced…

  • Harvard Study Challenges EPA’s Greenhouse Gas Figures

    A new study by Harvard University researchers on greenhouse gas emissions in the US claims that the level of methane leaks into the atmosphere may be 50% higher than suggested by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).The study claims that methane emissions from human activities such as natural gas production or livestock raising were twice as high, or higher, than EPA estimates, while in some south-central regions, emissions from fossil fuel extraction and refining may be up to five times higher than estimated. Related article: How to Stop the Inexorable Progress of Climate Change"Our numbers for the entire US are about…

  • How to Stop the Inexorable Progress of Climate Change

    Apocalyptic climate change is upon us.  For shorthand, let’s call it a slow-motion apocalypse to distinguish it from an intergalactic attack out of the blue or a suddenly surging Genesis-style flood.Slow-motion, however, is not no-motion. In fits and starts, speeding up and slowing down, turning risks into clumps of extreme fact, one catastrophe after another -- even if there can be no 100% certitude about the origin of each one -- the planetary future careens toward the unliveable. That future is, it seems, arriving ahead of schedule, though erratically enough that most people -- in the lucky, prosperous countries at…

  • The Battle Against Climate Change: Does the World Need Saving?

    Hardly a day goes by without someone writing or saying that we need to save the Earth. My geologist friends scoff at such language for semantic reasons. The coolish, rocky planet that we call Earth will be fine when humans are long gone, they say.Yes, climate change and human depredations of the biosphere have already brought many species to extinction and will likely extinguish many more. And, the radioactive wastes we leave behind might very well get spread about the Earth in ways that are destructive to life. But give the Earth a few hundred million years, and all of…

  • North Dakota in Spotlight after Oil Spill

    Oil production in North Dakota reached an all-time high in August. As of 2011, the U.S. Energy Department said the state was the fourth largest in the union in terms of oil production and North Dakota's oil accounted for 7 percent of the U.S. total, a 35 percent increase from the previous year. The state's Department of Mineral Resources said most of that crude oil would be able to make it to regional refineries so long as rail deliveries continue on their current trajectory. Scrutiny over crude oil deliveries by rail and the first major pipeline spill in the state,…

  • The Environmental Impact of the Government Shutdown

    The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has had to furlough more than 16,000 of its employees—about 93 percent of its staff—due to the government shutdown. It's down to the bare-bone minimum like so many other government agencies. But the longer the shutdown drags on, the longer the health of the environment and the public is at risk.The employees within the EPA make it their goal to protect the health of both American citizens and the environment. The agency's enforcement guards against toxic air and water pollutants, the release of poisonous chemicals from hazardous waste sites, ingestion of lead-based paint and even…

  • North Dakota Farmer Stumbles on Massive Oil Leak

    A farming harvesting his fields in North Dakota has come across a massive oil spill, undetected long enough to become the size of seven football fields. Local media reports cite farmer Steve Jensen as saying the crude appeared to becoming from a rupture in an underground pipeline operated by Tesoro Corp.The farmer noted that he had smelled the crude for days but it wasn’t until he began harvesting his wheat fields that he discovered the source of the smell, as his combine got caught up in crude spewing up to six inches above the ground.   Related article: How Our…

  • Why has Russia Really Charged Greenpeace Protestors with Piracy?

    Countries don't usually charge protesters with piracy for trying to board an oil rig. But Russia has done so in a drama that constantly surprises. Here are five things to know about the story. Why were the Greenpeace activists detained?Russian security forces seized Greenpeace's "Arctic Sunrise" icebreaker near a Gazprom oil-drilling platform in the Pechora Sea on September 19, arresting all 30 activists on board. That was a day after two of the activists tried to scale the offshore Prirazlomnaya drilling platform to protest Moscow's efforts to tap Arctic resources.On October 2, the Russian authorities formally charged 13 of the…

  • UN Blames Cows for Global Warming, Again

    In what is being heralded as the most comprehensive study on livestock’s contribution to global warming to date, the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) once again pins the lion’s share of greenhouse gas emissions on flatulent cows. In a new study, the FAO said that livestock farming makes up 14.5% of all human-caused greenhouse gas emissions, claiming that the report is the most comprehensive estimate made to-date of livestock's contribution to global warming.In the similar report from 2006, which provoked much controversy, the FAO said global meat production was responsible for 18% of greenhouse gas emissions—more than all of…