News from the environment...for those interested

UPDATED: Tuesday, June 21, 2016 12:09
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Wednesday, May 9, 2012 6:47 AM


Gettin' old, but still a hippie at heart...


Meet the latest player in the fractious debate over "fracking" for natural gas: the pronghorn. Disturbance from drilling is causing the fleet-footed ungulates to vacate their prime wintering grounds in Wyoming.

In winter, pronghorn (Antilocapra americana) migrate from higher ground to the Upper Green River basin – which in recent years has experienced a boom in gas drilling.

To study the effects of this development, a team led by Jon Beckmann, of the Wildlife Conservation Society, based in Bozeman, Montana, put GPS collars on 125 female pronghorn and tracked their movement.

Between 2005 and 2009 the researchers documented a five-fold decline in the use of habitat patches predicted to be of the highest quality, as the animals avoided areas disturbed by drilling. "We are seeing the abandonment of crucial winter range," says Beckmann.

Pronghorn populations haven't yet begun to fall, but a parallel study of the area's mule deer (Odocoileus hemionus), a more sedentary species, doesn't bode well: its numbers declined by 50 per cent over the same period.

By 2009 more than 3300 wells had been drilled in the Upper Green River basin, many of which are fracked, and thousands more are expected to follow. The researchers want the federal Bureau of Land Management, which must approve drilling operations, to minimise wildlife disturbance. That could be done by concentrating wells onto fewer drill pads, and using "directional drilling" techniques to extend the wells horizontally.
decade-long drought ends

It's official. Australia's decade-long drought ended this week. But that doesn't mean the region is in the clear, warn hydrologists.

"No predictions have been made on the timing of the next drought, but the scientific view is that in the southeast of Australia, we should expect droughts to become more severe and more frequent," says Bill Young, a leading hydrologist at CSIRO, Australia's national science agency.

Young says that elements of the recent drought are consistent with what is expected from an event that is driven by climate change.

Australia's extremes of drought and flood see-saw with the cycles of the El Niño and La Niña climate oscillation. The warming effect of emissions complicates this cycle, so modelling the overall effect is fraught with uncertainty.

The official end of the "Big Dry" came on Monday when meteorologists declared the country's two remaining drought-hit areas – Bundarra and Eurobodalla in New South Wales – free of drought.

The Australian government has a water-management plan which aims to ensure that water will be available in times of drought, says Young. This plan will be reviewed in 2015 to deal better with the consequences of climate change.
could have been so much worse. Over 100 tornadoes ripped through several Plains states in just 24 hours over the weekend. Cars were tossed through the air and houses were pulverized. Hail the size of baseballs fell from the sky, crushing anything left in the open. More than what is ordinarily a month's worth of cyclones struck in a single day, yet miraculously, only one, in the Oklahoma town of Westwood, proved fatal, killing six victims who lived in and around a mobile-trailer park. "God was merciful," Kansas Governor Sam Brownback told CNN on Sunday.

But it wasn't just God or chance. The low death toll was also due to a faster and more insistent warning system by weather forecasters, who put the word out early and often and over many platforms that the past weekend could be a dangerous one for the Midwest, thanks to an unusually strong storm system. The National Weather Service's Storm Prediction Center took the unusual step of alerting people in the region more than a day before what was termed a possible "high-end, life-threatening event." Warnings went out over radios, smart phones and TVs, urging people to stay underground or in a tornado shelter for the duration of the storm. And with memories of the more than 500 people who died in cyclones last year still fresh, residents in the affected areas paid attention and stayed out of harm's way.

In the age of climate change, a lot of science and press coverage have been given over to determining whether warming really does make extreme events like heat waves, floods, storms or tornadoes more frequent or more powerful. That's understandable: gradual warming over years or decades doesn't get a lot of attention, but a megastorm like Hurricane Katrina in 2005 or the bursts of killer tornadoes last spring certainly do. It's not just a matter of focusing public attention, however; extreme-weather events kill tens of thousands of people every year, and take a sizable chunk out of the global economy — not something anyone's likely to fail to notice. Last year the U.S. experienced a dozen natural disasters that caused a billion or more dollars in damages, ranging from Hurricane Irene in September to the lingering drought in Texas and the Southwest. If climate change is really supercharging extreme weather — causing death and mayhem — that's one more reason to get a grip on carbon emissions fast.

As it happens, the U.N.'s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change published an assessment on the science of extreme weather and global warming just last month. The panel found that it was likely that man-made carbon emissions are leading to extreme heat, something that should resonate on an April day that was so unseasonably hot that runners were warned away from the Boston Marathon. There was also medium confidence that carbon emissions and other anthropogenic factors are leading to more extreme rainfall — like the Pakistan floods of 2010 — and more intense droughts, like the one much of the U.S. is suffering through right now.

But there's much less certainty on whether carbon emissions are supercharging hurricanes, tropical cyclones or tornadoes. That's due in part to limitations in past data. Today, every tropical depression gets named and tracked, so there's no chance that a hurricane could somehow form without being noticed. And both professional and amateur storm trackers keep a close eye on tornadoes, so even in a cyclone that touches down for a few moments goes into the record books. But in the past, hurricanes were often just sketchily documented and only the strongest tornadoes — or the ones that actually caused damage — likely would have been recorded. The occurrence of strong and violent tornadoes may well have remained relatively stable over the long term; the fact that we're seeing more tornadoes overall now might simply mean that we're noticing storms we might have missed 30 or 40 years ago.

There's no doubt that the actual cost of extreme weather is on the rise, with U.S. insured losses from weather disaster soaring from $3 billion a year in the 1980s to about $20 billion a year in the past decade, adjusted for inflation.More at,8599,2112188,00.html puts climate change action into law

Europe is doing it, Brazil is doing it, and now Mexico is doing it too. The country has passed a package of laws committing it to act on climate change. It is only the second developing nation to set greenhouse gas emissions cuts in the letter of the law.

The package promises to cut the country's emissions by 30 per cent below "business-as-usual levels" by 2020 – meaning 30 per cent below what they would be without any intervention – and by 50 per cent below 2000 levels by 2050. It is part of a slow trend for nations to tackle climate change on their own, in the absence of a United Nations treaty to cut emissions beyond 2012.

Since 2008, Mexico has been the world's 11th largest emitter. "For a long time developing countries have been reluctant to commit to targets," says Niklas Höhne, director of energy and climate policy at Ecofys in Cologne, Germany. "To see a country as important as Mexico passing a law is very encouraging."

It's not alone. In 2010, Brazil passed its National Climate Change Policy into law, promising to cut its greenhouse gas emissions by 36 per cent by 2020, compared to 1990 levels.

South Korea's government is currently trying to introduce an emissions trading scheme.
change could affect wheat production: Govt report

NEW DELHI: A one degree celsius rise in temperature associated with increase in carbondioxide in atmosphere could hit wheat production in India unless "adaptation" strategies are adopted, according to a government report on climate change.

In the absence of adaptation and CO2 fertilisation benefits, a one degree Celsius rise in temperature alone could lead to a decrease of six million tonnes of wheat production, the report submitted to the UN said. India had a record wheat production at 85.93 million tonnes in 2010-11 crop year.
fracturing rules moving through the Illinois Statehouse this session have taken their cue from model legislation supported by an influential conservative think tank.

The Illinois chemical disclosure legislation, which passed unanimously through the state Senate last week, includes language that copies almost verbatim a new Texas law and a subsequent model bill from the American Legislative Exchange Council, or ALEC.

The language originated in Texas in 2011 and requires well operators to reveal chemicals used in the fracking process, which shoots sand, water and chemicals into the ground to release gas. An exception, heavily favored by the industry, allows companies to protect qualified chemical concoctions as trade secrets.

ALEC members, who meet three times a year to discuss policy trends and propose legislation, used the Texas bill to draft a model last year.

Dan Eichholz, associate director of the Illinois Petroleum Council — a state office of the American Petroleum Institute — said the council consulted with ALEC when negotiating disclosure requirements of the Illinois bill. ALEC did not approach the council first, he added.

Dan Eichholz, associate director of the Illinois Petroleum Council — a state office of the American Petroleum Institute — said the council consulted with ALEC when negotiating disclosure requirements of the Illinois bill. ALEC did not approach the council first, he added.More at
Change and Health

- Climate change affects the fundamental requirements for health – clean air, safe drinking water, sufficient food and secure shelter.

- The global warming that has occurred since the 1970s was causing over 140 000 excess deaths annually by the year 2004.

- Many of the major killers such as diarrhoeal diseases, malnutrition, malaria and dengue are highly climate-sensitive and are expected to worsen as the climate changes.

- Areas with weak health infrastructure – mostly in developing countries – will be the least able to cope without assistance to prepare and respond.

- Reducing emissions of greenhouse gases through better transport, food and energy-use choices can result in improved health.]
Natural Gas and the Invisible Spill: How Much Methane Is Reaching the Atmosphere?

You wouldn't know it from the news, but there's a major fossil-fuel spill ongoing in the North Sea off the coast of Scotland. A leak from a gas platform operated by the French energy company Total SA was first detected on March 25 and has been spilling around 7 million cu. ft. (200,000 cu m) of natural gas every day since. Of course gas, unlike oil, doesn't have a devastating — or visual — effect on the marine environment, which is one reason the Elgin gas field, where the spill is taking place, hasn't become as infamous as the Deepwater Horizon site in the Gulf of Mexico. But the leak is a disaster for the climate all the same; natural gas is mostly made up of methane, a greenhouse gas that has 25 times the warming power of carbon dioxide. Engineers working for Total estimate that it may take half a year to shut the leak, and if all of the methane released in that time reaches the atmosphere, the spill would approximate the annual global warming impact of putting 300,000 new cars on the road.

The Total leak is a reminder that natural gas — in the wrong place — can do very real damage to the environment, even if it does so invisibly. That might sound surprising because natural gas has been hyped as the clean fossil fuel, a replacement for coal power that's better for the atmosphere. That and the vast new reserves of shale gas found in states like Montana and Pennsylvania have kept the price of natural gas low — the lowest it's been in over a decade in the U.S. — and led to something of a boom time for the industry, enabling utilities to replace aging, polluting coal plants. "We, it turns out, are the Saudi Arabia of natural gas," President Barack Obama said in a speech in January. "And developing it could power our cars and our homes and our factories in a cleaner and cheaper way."More at,8599,2111562,00.html power and influence that Big Oil and Gas wield in California is on display once again this week in Sacramento. Lobbyists for large oil and gas conglomerates are forcing East Bay Assemblyman Bob Wieckowski to water down legislation he wrote that seeks to regulate fracking in the state, the LA Times reports.

Fracking has led to a boom in natural gas production in the United States, and has sparked a backlash from environmentalists and consumer advocates over concerns about groundwater contamination and other pollution problems.

Wieckowski’s bill originally sought to require oil and gas companies to disclose exactly which chemicals they use in their fracking wells. But his legislation stalled last year when lobbyists for large oil and gas companies convinced enough Democrats in the state capital to block it. The companies, which also are among the biggest campaign donors in state politics, said they didn’t want to reveal their “trade secrets.” As a result, Wieckowski, who is from Fremont, has substantially weakened his bill to the point that it would allow oil and gas companies to not disclose the chemicals they pump into the earth by filing a “trade secrets” claim with state regulators.

Although Wieckowski’s bill represents an improvement over the current nonexistent state regulations governing fracking, in part because it would require oil and gas companies to disclose the locations of their fracking wells, the weakness of the amended legislation serves as another reminder of the juice Big Oil and Gas continues to enjoy even in blue states like California
change altering oceans, rainfall: study

A study published in the journal Science has concluded that climate change is altering oceans and rainfall worldwide.

A team of three researchers looked at ocean data over the period 1950 to 2000.

They found salinity levels have changed in all the world's oceans, wetter areas are experiencing more rain and drier areas have become drier.

Susan Wijffels from the CSIRO says she expects the trend to continue.

"The answer of how much more is going to be in the future depends on how much more warning there is going to be," she said.

"So if we stay on a high emissions pathway we might see warming up around three degrees, which will give us maybe a 24 per cent change in our water cycle."

The authors say this could have implications for global food security.

The study was jointly funded by the Department of Climate Change, the Bureau of Meteorology and the CSIRO.
(Philippine Daily Inquirer/ANN) - The Philippines' laws on climate change adaptation (CCA) and disaster risk reduction (DRR) are the "best in the world," UN special envoy Margareta Wahlstr?m said Thursday.

Wahlstrom, special DRR representative of UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, praised the Philippines for taking the lead in the global campaign to mitigate disaster risks brought about by global warming.

She commended Senator Loren Legarda, the UN Champion for DRR and CCA for Asia and the Pacific, for ensuring the passage of climate-responsive laws and for mainstreaming the CCA and DRR mechanisms into the national political agenda.

"You do have now an excellent legal framework for disaster risk reduction and an excellent legal framework for climate adaptation. The basis [of the laws] is really for empowering local governments," Wahlstrom said in a press conference.

Legarda thanked Wahlstrom for the compliment, but told the media that the "challenge is to translate them into local community action to save lives, and reduce disaster risks and economic losses."

An environmental crusader for two decades now, Legarda authored the Climate Change Act of 2009 (Republic Act No. 9729), which created the Climate Change Commission and cosponsored the Philippine Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Act of 2010 (RA 10121).

Wahlstrom stressed that both laws highlighted the policy shift from a reactionary to a proactive stance in addressing disasters.

"We have in the Philippines the best two laws-not only in Asia-Pacific, but in Margareta's words-in the world," said Legarda.More at
. The world is passing us by on most of the efforts to save our environment, while we're still arguing about whether climate change exists or not, Big Oil/Gas and ALEC are writing legislation that protects the industry, and "clean coal" and natural gas are being touted in advertising so many times every day here my channel-changing finger is getting a calouse.

There are a couple of bright spots here and there:

Vermont poised to be first state to outlaw fracking

May 8 (Reuters) - Vermont will be the first state to outlaw a controversial oil and gas drilling method known as fracking when Governor Peter Shumlin signs a bill banning the practice, a largely symbolic move given the state's apparent lack of energy reserves.

Hydraulic fracturing has helped companies tap potentially decades of gas supply and huge amounts of oil from previously inaccessible shale formations dotted across the United States in recent years.

Environmentalists say the practice, which involves injecting millions of gallons of chemical-laced water into underground wells, may contaminate groundwater and trigger earthquakes.

"Governor Shumlin does support the fracking ban," said Sue Allen, a spokeswoman for Vermont's Democratic governor. "He will sign the legislation when it reaches his desk."

Vermont's House and Senate approved the measure last week and the bill is undergoing a final review by legislative staffers before being sent to the governor, Allen said.

It is a largely token gesture, given that Vermont does not have any natural gas reserves to speak of, sitting just outside the boundaries of the vast Marcellus shale formation.

The Marcellus formation has been aggressively drilled in other states such as Pennsylvania. Vermont did not produce a drop of oil or natural gas between 1960 and 2009, and consumes the smallest amount of energy of all U.S. states, according to the Energy Information Administration.

The move is the latest in an effort by states to regulate or curtail fracking, which was exempted from many federal clean water regulations during the George W. Bush administration.

New York and Maryland both have moratoriums on the practice pending environmental review. In 2010, Wyoming became the first state to require energy companies to disclose what chemicals they use in the process, followed by Texas and Michigan.More athttp://


Wednesday, May 9, 2012 1:10 PM


Beir bua agus beannacht

I'm cool with banning fracking. I hope my state bans it too, yucky business fracking is.

Extreme weather is ... extreme, better warning systems and disaster planning are always a good thing.

I assume you're my pal until you let me know otherwise.

"A completely coherant River means writers don't deliver" KatTaya.


Wednesday, May 9, 2012 1:25 PM


Ugh. I think the one about the Green River business is from Utah. I hate that.


Monday, May 14, 2012 3:10 PM


I haven't been paying attention to most Big (worldwide) Matters lately.
It's got me kind of Ostrich-mode.

My youngest Sis & baby Bro were INsufficiently emotionally abused as kids.
I figure that's why they are both happily married and have near normal lives.

Brother came up on Saturday and took us to a Japanese restaurant. I didn't
deluge him with all the scary stuff I have learned in Here (FFF.N). I did
mention Fukushima, tho, and while he recalled their disaster a year ago, he
seemed blissfully unaware of continuing and current consequences.

So while he's doing Ostrich-mode as a realistic conservative & reformed sci-fi
fan, I do it out of stark terror.


. . . . .The worst and most frequent consequence of paranoia is that it's self-fulfilling.


Tuesday, May 15, 2012 4:20 AM


Keep the Shiny side up

Be interesting to see of the drilling has an effect over time.

There are oil fields in Fallon County, Montana (around Plevna and Baker) - with wellheads, storage tanks, piping, and support infrastructure - that have been there for quite some time. I've seen pronghorn grazing right up to the fences around the wellheads, and herds hundreds strong in the immediate area.

I suspect that the ones mentioned in the study are moving because there's something new in the area, and will return when they get acclimated.

Pronghorn is delicious, BTW.


Tuesday, May 15, 2012 4:37 AM


Gettin' old, but still a hippie at heart...

Oonj, I've become like you; I don't even want to hear about it most of the time. Can't do anything about it anyway, and there's so MUCH going on, it's just depressing to learn about. I support a few organizations, and feel that's all I can do. Every now and again, I can't resist...I guess mostly to remind people all this is still happening...and to remind myself. Not that I need reminding.

I get magazines from the environmental and animal rescue/rehab organization groups I support, and I rarely read them, because they're filled with 99% bad news--pushing for more contributions of course. But I don't want to KNOW about all the horrors, so I e-mail them to stop sending the mags. Doesn't stop some of them.

I've long since mostly given up on this stuff; back when we were fighting for individual species in the '80s, we felt like we were doing something...until of course I learned that every battle we "win" is just a delaying tactic, they'll come at it again from another direction, and if they win just ONCE, we've lost completely. That took the wind out of my sails.

When I expanded to environmentalism and discovered all the things happening THERE, like the garbage patch, I got even more depressed and pessimistic, and stopped altogether. Now I hide my head in the sand or bitch about it here; that's about it. Eventually it becomes so huge, you just lose hope.


Tuesday, May 15, 2012 5:42 AM


Geezer: probably depends on a number of things, like depth to groundwater, and fracking versus conventional drilling. Fracking is kind of a problem.


Tuesday, May 15, 2012 5:44 AM


Niki: That ain't true. You went to the gulf. And while you didn't save it - no one could, I think - what you did was both valuable and more than most people bothered to do.


Tuesday, May 15, 2012 6:01 AM


Keep the Shiny side up


Originally posted by BYTEMITE:
Geezer: probably depends on a number of things, like depth to groundwater, and fracking versus conventional drilling. Fracking is kind of a problem.

But if you look at the abstract for the actual article, fracking is not mentioned at all - just gas drilling in general. When they give examples of environmental impact it's "...(e.g., distance to nearest road and well pad, amount of habitat loss due to conversion to a road or well pad)", not fracking. The New Science writer is the one who makes un-supported assumptions to spin fracking into the story, apparently agenda-driven.


Tuesday, May 15, 2012 7:03 AM


Freedom is Important because People are Important


fracking is not mentioned at all - just gas drilling in general.


If fracking is a considerable portion of gas drilling, then a leap might be warranted in that regard.


Note to Self:
Raptor - women who want to control their reproductive processes are sluts.
Wulf - Niki is a stupid fucking bitch who should hurry up and die.
Never forget what these men are.
“The stupid neither forgive nor forget; the naive forgive and forget; the wise forgive but do not forget.” -Thomas Szasz


Tuesday, May 15, 2012 7:37 AM


You think you know--what's to come, what you are. You haven't even begun.

I think the worst consequence of fracking I've seen is this:

Not to say the ungulates don't rank, they just maybe rank below flammable tap water.

What reason had proved best ceased to look absurd to the eye, which shows how idle it is to think anything ridiculous except what is wrong.


Tuesday, May 15, 2012 11:20 AM


Keep the Shiny side up


Originally posted by ANTHONYT:
If fracking is a considerable portion of gas drilling, then a leap might be warranted in that regard.

I'd think if the folks who did the study had considered fracking a major contributor to habitat degradation (as opposed to just the usual stuff around any drilling site like well pads, roads, piping, power lines, fences, etc.), they'd have mentioned it in the abstract. The fact that they don't mention it at all, but the New Scientist writer features it in the headline as though it is the only contributor ("Fracking drives pronghorn herds out of Wyoming habitat"), should really set off alarm bells for anyone looking at the story critically.


Wednesday, May 16, 2012 2:06 PM


Beir bua agus beannacht

Don't get discouraged Niki.

In this goofy made for TV movie called Mongolian Death Worms, these bad white guys are fracking near Genghis Khan's tomb and the Death Worms guarding it get angry and start attacking people. Its kind of lame, but worth my while because it involved Genghis' tomb. Unfortunately I don't think there were any real Mongolians in it.

I assume you're my pal until you let me know otherwise.

"A completely coherant River means writers don't deliver" KatTaya.


Monday, June 20, 2016 9:11 PM


Through his music, acclaimed Italian composer and pianist Ludovico Einaudi has added his voice to those of eight million people from across the world demanding protection for the Arctic. Einaudi performed one of his own compositions on a floating platform in the middle of the Ocean, against the backdrop of the Wahlenbergbreen glacier (in Svalbard, Norway).


Tuesday, June 21, 2016 12:09 PM


The sad thing is that the people who do the fracking have all the power. They spend a fortune lying about renewable energy, and suppressing facts about what all this drilling is doing to the planet and our water.

Until we vote in people who wont take their bribes, nothing is going to change.






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