Sierra Daily: June 2011
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24 posts from June 2011

Jun 07, 2011

Hot Enough For You?

Eggs cooking on hot pavement Within the next 20 to 60 years, the coolest days of summer will be hotter than the scorchers of today. That's the grim forecast from a forthcoming paper in Climatic Change Letters by Noah Diffenbaugh of Stanford University's Woods Institute for the Environment and research assistant Michael Scherer. Their analysis of more than 50 climate models led them to conclude that many parts of the earth face "the permanent emergence of unprecedented summer heat."

According to our projections, large areas of the globe are likely to warm up so quickly that, by the middle of this century, even the coolest summers will be hotter than the hottest summers of the past 50 years.

More worrisome still is the fact that their analysis was based on a "relatively modest forecast of greenhouse gas emissions in the 21st century." Actual increases could be far higher. For example, according to a study in Tellus by NOAA and the National Snow and Ice Data Center, melting in the arctic regions could release vast amounts of carbon currently frozen in permafrost, vastly increasing planetary greenhouse gases. --Paul Rauber

Jun 06, 2011

Well, They Did Say “Golden Age,” Not “Green Age”

724002022 Today the International Energy Agency released a report heralding the “golden age” of natural gas, a scenario in which global use of gas rises by more than 50 percent from 2010 levels and accounts for more than a quarter of global energy demand by 2035. The report is quick to note that while natural gas is cleaner than coal and oil, it “is far from enough on its own to put the world on a carbon emissions path consistent with a global temperature rise of no more than 2 degrees Celsius.” International Energy Agency Executive Director Nobuo Tanaka put it bluntly: “An expansion of gas use alone is no panacea for climate change,” In fact, “its increased use could muscle out low-carbon fuels, such as renewables and nuclear – particularly in the wake of the incident at Fukushima and the likelihood of a reduced role for nuclear in some countries.”

As the Guardian points out, the current predictions “would lead the world to a 3.5C temperature rise. At such a level, global warming could run out of control, deserts would take over in southern Africa, Australia and the western U.S., and sea level rises could engulf small island states.”

For more cheery news from the Interrnational Energy Agency, read Prospect of limiting the global increase in temperature to 2ºC is getting bleaker.

--Reed McManus

Jun 03, 2011

A Picture Is Worth A Thousand Blowhards

Think Progress notes that at Thursday’s House Oversight Committee hearing discussing the aftermath of last year’s BP oil disaster, Mississippi Governor Haley Barbour (R) pinned the drop in tourism in his region not on any of the obvious perpetrators -- BP? Transocean? –- but on the news media for focusing on images of “a chocolate pelican.”

According to Barbour, a former energy-industry lobbyist: “So people saw on TV the same brown pelican coated with looked like 3 inches of oil, I mean, looked like a chocolate pelican. And they showed it every hour, every day, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, for weeks and weeks and weeks. And the news media, particularly 24-hour cable TV, gave citizens the impression the whole Gulf Coast was coated in oil. People deduced from that that it was unsafe, unpleasant, don’t want to go there.”

Some of the most compelling of those “chocolate pelican” images were taken by Charlie Riedel of Associated Press. It's well worth revisiting them here.

--Reed McManus

Jun 02, 2011

All That Was Left Was The Shouting … And The Oil

Pom poms A new study by a University of West Florida researchers claims that Corexit, the chemical sprayed in the Gulf of Mexico to break up the BP oil spill, could be damaging the ecosystem more than the oil alone. According to Wade Jeffrey, a biologist with the university’s Center for Environmental Diagnostics and Bioremediation, Corexit is toxic to phytoplankton and bacteria when mixed with oil. "It might have been better to not use it,” Jeffrey said, “because it greatly increases the oil that is dissolved in the water instead of concentrating it at the top." BP dumped 2 million gallons of Corexit into the Gulf in its attempt to disperse 4.1 million gallons of oil released during the Deepwater Horizon crisis.

Meanwhile, Republicans on Capitol Hill did their part to keep Gulf issues murky. On Thursday, GOP members of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee criticized the Obama administration for imposing a moratorium on deep-water drilling and  for giving BP lead role in responding to the Deepwater Horizon crisis. The moratorium lasted six months and was lifted in October once new safety regulations were, er, in the pipeline.

--Reed McManus

Image: NOAA. Booms made from pom-poms at Fourchon Beach, La., on May 27, 2010. "Plastic pom-poms are effective and low-cost tools that attract and hold oil," the agency cheers.

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