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22 May 2017. Energy Transfer Partners in Hot Water Again Over Rover Pipeline Construction

By Steve Horn

After taking heat last fall for destroying sacred sites of the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe , the owner of the Dakota Access pipeline finds itself embattled anew over the preservation of historic sites, this time in Ohio.


Documents filed with the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) show that Energy Transfer Partners is in the midst of a dispute with the Ohio State Historic Preservation Office over a $1.5 million annual payment owed to the state agency as part of a five-year agreement signed in February.

Energy Transfer Partners was set to pay the preservation office in exchange for bulldozing the Stoneman House, a historic home built in 1843 in Dennison, Ohio, whose razing occurred during construction of the Rover Pipeline . Rover is set to carry natural gas obtained via fracking from the Utica Shale and Marcellus Shale —up to 14 percent of it—through the state of Ohio. The pipeline owner initially bulldozed the historic home, located near a compressor station, without notifying FERC , as the law requires.

FERC provides regulatory and permitting oversight for interstate pipeline projects like Rover , and as a result, is tasked with performing an environmental and cultural review. Because Energy Transfer Partners didn't notify the commission of the plan to tear down the historic home, citizens and other concerned stakeholders, including the Ohio State Historic Preservation Office, did not have the ability to file a formal protest of the action.

"Negative Regional PR"

In May 2015, Energy Transfer Partners purchased the Stoneman House from the Ohio State Historic Preservation Office for $1.3 million and bulldozed it just two weeks later, according to FERC documents. The $1.5 million annual payment owed to the Ohio State Historic Preservation Office was in addition to the initial cost of purchasing the home.

The annual payments were supposed to go toward history education programs administered by the office, as agreed upon by FERC, the Advisory Council on Historic Preservation, Energy Transfer Partners and the Ohio State Historic Preservation Office.

U.S. Federal Energy Regulatory Commission

In a March 2015 email, an Energy Transfer Partners employee, whose name is redacted in a filing docketed with FERC , acknowledged that bulldozing the home could create " negative regional PR ."

"I agree that tearing down the house could be a politically risky strategy," wrote the official. "[I]t may negatively affect the relationships with our reviewers and possibly result in some negative regional PR. We also told FERC that we would work with the [State Historic Preservation Office] to get to a place where there was no adverse effect."

Asking for Dispute Resolution

In the past few weeks, FERC, Energy Transfer Partners and the Ohio State Historic Preservation Office have exchanged several letters related to the conflict over payment owed for razing the Stoneman House, which the parties agreed upon in the Memorandum of Agreement.

On April 28, Lox Logan Jr., executive director and CEO of the Ohio State Historic Preservation Office, requested that FERC help with formal dispute resolution over the issue.

"The Ohio State Historic Preservation Office has been in repeated contact with representatives from Rover LLC regarding the fulfillment" of the monetary commitments outlined in the Memorandum of Agreement [MOA], wrote Logan . "As of this date, no efforts have been made to meet those obligations. As the lead federal agency with jurisdiction over this undertaking, we are notifying you of this dispute."

William Scherman , an attorney for the firm Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher, currently is serving as legal counsel to Energy Transfer Partners and sent his own letter , which Energy Transfer Partners provided to DeSmog , to FERC on May 10. The letter also requested that FERC step in to resolve the dispute. Scherman previously served as FERC general counsel and chief of staff under Presidents Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush.

"Certain facts regarding the generation and completion of the MOA and the handling of the mitigation monetary provision were misleading and in error, and therefore we do believe that there is an impasse to resolution at this time," wrote Scherman. "Rover believes any additional contribution is unwarranted and unfair, and Rover is willing to vigorously defend itself against any attempts to leverage any additional contribution."

Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher is a firm best known for providing legal counsel to Chevron in the ongoing litigation between attorney Steven Donziger and indigenous plaintiffs in Ecuador against Chevron. That lawsuit and complex litigation battle, which has now dragged on for nearly 25 years, centers around the legacy of oil pollution and contamination in the country.

FERC, in turn, responded on May 17 to the letters from the Preservation Office and Energy Transfer Partners, giving them a three-week dispute resolution period.

"If this dispute is not resolved by the end of that period, commission staff will provide its recommended final decision on the dispute, along with all documentation it deems relevant to the dispute, to the [Advisory Council on Historic Preservation] for its review and comment," reads the FERC letter .

U.S. Federal Energy Regulatory Commission | Sherry Miller

A spokesperson for Energy Transfer Partners told DeSmog that it will "decline to comment as we continue to work with all parties" on resolving the issue.

"FERC has responded to our letter. We're entering into dispute resolution with FERC at this time," Emmy Beach, public relations manager for the Ohio State Historic Preservation Office, told DeSmog. "At this point, the matter is up to FERC to decide what happens next."

For its part, Energy Transfer Partners has offered a blanket $2.3 million payment which would go to the Ohio State Historic Preservation Office and $1 million of it would go directly to all the 18 counties through which Rover crosses. The other $1.3 million would go toward historic preservation efforts statewide in Ohio.

Reposted with permission from our media associate DeSmogBlog .

22 May 2017. 'Spiteful and Destructive': Maine Gov. Bans Road Signs to Obama-Designated Monument

Looks like you'll have to trust your map if you want to find the newly designated Katahdin Woods and Waters National Monument in Maine.

Gov. Paul LePage has refused to put up any official signs along the four main roads to the 87,500-acre preserve, which is on the list of 27 national monuments under Interior Sec. Ryan Zinke 's review.


President Barack Obama established Katahdin under the Antiquities Act last summer on forestland donated by Burt's Bees founder and philanthropist Roxanne Quimby.

Gov. LePage, who believes the designation went against the state's wishes and undermines the timber industry, successfully lobbied the Trump administration to review whether Obama's order was valid.

Now, until the federal review is complete, there will not be any signs along Interstate 95 and Routes 11, 157 and 159 that lead to Katahdin, state officials said Friday.

"What we don't want to do is commit taxpayers' money to signage ... without knowing that it [the monument] is in place and that everyone is on board with it," Maine Department of Transportation spokesman Ted Talbot told the Bangor Daily News .

But Lucas St. Clair, Quimby's son and president of Friends of Katahdin Woods and Waters , told the Guardian that Katahdin is only under review because the governor requested it.

He called LePage's refusal to display signs "spiteful and destructive," and pointed out that the governor is also refusing to put up signs paid for with private funds.

"It's one of the most irresponsible things he could do for the region," continued St. Clair, adding that the actions are "petty" and "sophomoric."

Other supporters of the national monument say that the designation has brought many benefits to nearby towns.

"To my knowledge, Governor LePage has never even set foot in Patten and yet he insults our region by calling it a 'mosquito area,'" Jon Ellis, a local business owner, said . "The monument has brought new energy to our towns and helped unify the region."

Similarly, Terry Hill, owner of Shin Pond Village in Mt. Chase, said, "I am very disappointed that the governor would try to undo this new economic engine in our community without having even visited."

While visitors will still be able to find the monument, say with Google Maps, Katahdin Area Chamber of Commerce president Gail Fanjoy pointed out "the fact that our governor is blocking signage is telling people that the region is not open for business."

"He should be doing the opposite of what he is doing," Fanjoy said.

22 May 2017. 6 Reasons Tempeh Should Be Part of a Healthy Diet

By Rachael Link

Tempeh is a fermented soy product that's a popular vegetarian meat replacement.


However, vegetarian or not, it can be a nutritious addition to your diet.

High in protein, probiotics and a wide array of vitamins and minerals, tempeh is a versatile ingredient that comes with a variety of health benefits.

This article will take a deeper look at the many advantages of tempeh.

What Is Tempeh?

Tempeh is a traditional Indonesian food made from soybeans that have been fermented, or broken down by microorganisms.

Following fermentation, the soybeans are pressed into a compact cake that is commonly consumed as a vegetarian source of protein .

In addition to soybeans, tempeh may also be made from other bean varieties, wheat or a mixture of soybeans and wheat ( 1 ).

Tempeh has a dry and firm but chewy texture and a slightly nutty taste. It can be steamed, sautéed or baked and is often marinated to add more flavor.

Much like other meatless sources of protein, such as tofu and seitan, tempeh is a popular choice among vegans and vegetarians because it's packed with nutrients.

Summary: Tempeh is typically made up of fermented soybeans and/or wheat. It can be prepared in a variety of different ways and is high in nutrients, making it a popular vegetarian source of protein.

Tempeh Is Rich in Many Nutrients

Tempeh boasts an impressive nutrient profile. It is high in protein, vitamins and minerals but low in sodium and carbs.

A 3-ounce (84-gram) serving of tempeh contains these nutrients ( 2 ):

• Calories: 162
• Protein: 15 grams
• Carbs: 9 grams
• Total fat: 9 grams
• Sodium: 9 milligrams
• Iron: 12 percent of the RDI
• Calcium: 9 percent of the RDI
• Riboflavin: 18 percent of the RDI
• Niacin: 12 percent of the RDI
• Magnesium: 18 percent of the RDI
• Phosphorus: 21 percent of the RDI
• Manganese: 54 percent of the RDI

Because it is more compact than other soy products, tempeh provides more protein than some other vegetarian alternatives.

For example, 3 ounces (84 grams) of tofu contains 6 grams of protein or about 40 percent of the protein in the same amount of tempeh ( 3 ).

Tempeh is also a good dairy-free source of calcium. One cup (166 grams) of tempeh contains about 2/3 of the calcium found in one cup of whole milk ( 2 , 4 ).

Summary: Tempeh is a good source of protein, iron, manganese, phosphorus, magnesium and calcium. It is also low in carbs and sodium.

It Contains Probiotics

Fermentation is a process that involves the breaking down of sugars by bacteria and yeast ( 5 ).

Through fermentation, the phytic acid found in soybeans is broken down, helping to improve digestion and absorption ( 6 ).

Additionally, fermented foods are a good source of probiotics , which are beneficial bacteria found in your gut that can help promote digestive health ( 7 ).

Compared to other tempeh varieties, soy-based tempeh is especially rich in probiotics.

A 2013 test-tube study found that soy tempeh was more effective than bean-based tempeh in stimulating the growth of Bifidobacterium , a beneficial strain of bacteria ( 8 ).

Studies have found that probiotics could alleviate the symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome, prevent diarrhea, reduce bloating and support regularity ( 9 , 10 , 11 ).

Some studies have even found that probiotics could increase weight loss.

One study supplemented 210 adults who had large amounts of belly fat with probiotics. Following the 12-week study, participants lost an average of 8.5 percent of their belly fat ( 12 ).

Probiotics have also been associated with improvements in immunity, mental health and even blood cholesterol levels ( 13 , 14 , 15 ).

Summary: Tempeh contains probiotics, which may help promote digestive health, increase weight loss and improve immune function, mental health and blood cholesterol levels.

It's High in Protein to Keep You Full

Tempeh is high in protein. One cup (166 grams) provides 31 grams of protein ( 2 ).

Some studies suggest that a protein-rich diet may stimulate thermogenesis, leading to an increase in metabolism and helping your body burn more calories after each meal ( 16 ).

A diet high in protein can also aid in appetite control by increasing fullness and decreasing hunger ( 17 ).

One study found that high-protein soy snacks improved appetite, satiety and diet quality compared to high-fat snacks ( 18 ).

Additionally, research shows that soy protein can be just as effective as meat-based protein when it comes to appetite control.

In a 2014 study, 20 obese men were placed on a high-protein diet that included either soy-based or meat-based protein.

After two weeks, they found that both diets led to weight loss, a decrease in hunger and an increase in fullness with no significant difference between the two protein sources ( 19 ).

Summary: Tempeh is high in soy protein, which can promote satiety, reduce hunger and increase weight loss.

It May Reduce Cholesterol Levels

Tempeh is traditionally made from soybeans, which contain natural plant compounds called isoflavones.

Soy isoflavones have been associated with reduced cholesterol levels.

One review looked at 11 studies and found that soy isoflavones were able to significantly decrease both total and LDL cholesterol ( 20 ).

Another study looked at the effects of soy protein on cholesterol levels and triglycerides . 42 participants were fed a diet containing either soy protein or animal protein over a six-week period.

Compared to animal protein, soy protein decreased LDL cholesterol by 5.7 percent and total cholesterol by 4.4 percent. It also decreased triglycerides by 13.3 percent ( 21 ).

Though most available research focuses on the effects of soy isoflavones and soy protein on blood cholesterol, one study did focus specifically on tempeh.

A 2013 animal study examined the effects of nutrient-enriched soybean tempeh on mice with liver damage.

It found that tempeh had a protective effect on the liver and was able to reverse damage to liver cells. Additionally, tempeh caused a decrease in both cholesterol and triglyceride levels ( 22 ).

Summary: Tempeh is made from soybeans, which contain soy isoflavones. Studies show that soy isoflavones and soy protein may decrease blood cholesterol levels.

It Could Decrease Oxidative Stress

Studies show that soy isoflavones also possess antioxidant properties and may reduce oxidative stress ( 23 ).

Antioxidants work by neutralizing free radicals, atoms that are highly unstable and can contribute to the development of chronic disease.

The accumulation of harmful free radicals has been linked to many diseases, including diabetes, heart disease and cancer ( 24 ).

Numerous studies have shown that isoflavones could reduce markers of oxidative stress by increasing antioxidant activity in the body ( 25 , 26 ).

Other studies have found that supplementing with soy isoflavones may have a favorable effect on several diseases associated with oxidative stress.

For example, one animal study showed that soybean isoflavones decreased blood sugar levels in rats with diabetes ( 27 ).

Another study used data from 6,000 households in Japan and found that intake of soy products was associated with a decreased risk of death from heart disease and stomach cancer ( 28 ).

Tempeh may especially be beneficial compared to other soy products.

One study compared the isoflavones in soybeans to the isoflavones in tempeh and found that tempeh had greater antioxidant activity ( 29 ).

Summary: Soy isoflavones may possess antioxidant properties and could be beneficial in decreasing oxidative stress and chronic disease.

It Can Promote Bone Health

Tempeh is a good source of calcium, a mineral that is responsible for keeping bones strong and dense.

Adequate calcium intake may prevent the development of osteoporosis, a condition that is associated with bone loss and porous bones ( 30 ).

In one study, 40 elderly women increased their calcium intake through diet or supplements for two years. Increasing calcium intake decreased bone loss and preserved bone density, compared to control groups ( 31 ).

Another study looked at 37 women and showed that increasing dietary calcium intake by 610 mg per day helped prevent age-related bone loss ( 32 ).

Other studies show that increasing calcium intake could help increase bone growth and density in children and teenagers ( 33 , 34 ).

Though dairy products are the most common sources of calcium, studies show that the calcium in tempeh is as well absorbed as the calcium in milk, making it an excellent option for increasing calcium intake ( 35 ).

Summary: Tempeh is high in calcium and may help increase bone density and prevent bone loss.

Tempeh May Not Be for Everyone

Tempeh, along with other fermented soy products, is generally considered to be safe for most people.

However, some individuals may want to consider limiting their intake of tempeh.

Those with a soy allergy should avoid tempeh altogether.

Eating tempeh may trigger an allergic response for those allergic to soy, which could include symptoms like hives, swelling or difficulty breathing.

Additionally, soybeans are considered a goitrogen , a substance that can interfere with thyroid function.

Though studies show that soy intake has little to no effect on thyroid function, those with impaired thyroid function may want to keep intake in moderation ( 36 ).

Summary: Individuals who have a soy allergy should avoid tempeh, while those with impaired thyroid function may want to limit their intake.

How to Use Tempeh

Both versatile and nutritious, tempeh is easy to incorporate into your diet.

Tempeh is typically marinated or seasoned to increase flavor, then crumbled, baked, steamed or sautéed and added to dishes.

It can be used in everything from sandwiches to stir-fries.

Here are a few other delicious ways to use tempeh:

Tempeh Bacon

Crispy Maple-Dijon Tempeh Sandwiches

Tempeh Gyro Lettuce Wraps

Easy Baked BBQ Tempeh

Summary: Tempeh is usually marinated or seasoned and then crumbled, baked, steamed or sautéed. It can be used in a wide variety of dishes.

The Bottom Line

Tempeh is a nutrient-dense soy product with a high amount of protein, as well as various vitamins and minerals.

It may decrease cholesterol levels, oxidative stress and appetite while improving bone health.

Tempeh also contains probiotics, which can improve digestive health and promote weight loss .

Nevertheless, those with a soy allergy or impaired thyroid function should limit their intake of tempeh and other soy-based products.

Yet for most, tempeh is a versatile and nutritious food that can be an excellent addition to the diet.

Reposted with permission from our media associate Authority Nutrition .

22 May 2017. Bears Ears 'Review' a Sham, Against the Law?

An anti-public lands official in Utah said Interior Sec. Ryan Zinke has already made up his mind to repeal Bears Ears National Monument , a move experts say could be against the law.


According to a report from E&E News, Zinke has already told some officials in Utah that he will recommend revoking Bears Ears National Monument's protected status. This suggests the Trump administration has already made up its mind about the outcome of its so-called "review" of national monuments created under the Antiquities Act , for which it is ostensibly soliciting public comments.

The Department of the Interior is claiming no decision has been made about Bears Ears, but the E&E report dovetails with news that Zinke mostly met with opponents of the monument while in Utah, as well as the Trump administration's presumptive goal of stripping its protected status.

Meanwhile, a new paper from legal scholars concludes that President Trump's abolition or diminution of a national monument would be against the law. Such a move would also undermine tribal sovereignty and undercut the appointment of official tribal representatives to the newly created Bears Ears Commission, which is supposed to help govern the management of the monument.

What was the point of Zinke's Utah visit?

Ever since his confirmation hearing, Sec. Zinke has been talking up the importance of visiting Utah to see how locals feel about Bears Ears National Monument, which was established by President Obama in 2016 in response to a coalition of Native American tribes seeking to preserve thousands of priceless archaeological sites.

But when Zinke actually spent time in and around Bears Ears , tribal leaders and other defenders of public lands felt their voices were not heard , with at least one Navajo leader barred from a meeting by Utah Highway Patrol troopers.

During Zinke's trip, Sen. Orrin Hatch, who lobbied for President Trump's executive order targeting national monuments, insultingly claimed "the Indians" do not "understand" the implications of the monument designation they championed for years, and suggested they " take [his] word for it " that its status should be changed.

More than 70 percent of voters in Utah supported monument protection for Bears Ears. On a national level, 90 percent of voters support presidential proposals to protect lands as monuments, while 69 percent oppose efforts to stop this practice. But the Trump administration appears to care little for the views of the American people—not to mention the legacy of Theodore Roosevelt, signer of the Antiquities Act, whom both Zinke and the president himself have claimed to revere.

Trump's anti-monument order could open the floodgates.

The visit to Utah came not long after Trump signed an executive order that would subject at least 27 national monuments to "review" and potentially reduced protection. It was a push to rescind or shrink Bears Ears that reportedly motivated the Trump administration— encouraged by Reps. Rob Bishop and Jason Chaffetz and other Utah politicians—to sign the recent order in the first place, but the move could have widespread repercussions.

The action primarily targets monuments designated since the beginning of 1996 that are 100,000 acres or larger, but could end up affecting more than 50 monuments established in that span, including sites like Colorado's Browns Canyon National Monument. And once the roadwork has been laid to revisit those monuments, countless others will be at risk.

22 May 2017. Will New York Become the First State to Allow Genetically Engineered Moths?

Although not on most people's radar here, New York is one step closer to becoming the first state to have genetically modified , non-sterile insects released outside without cages.


Last week, the Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service of the United States Department of Agriculture ( USDA-APHIS ) ended the public comment period for its most recent environmental assessment of the proposed field release of a genetically engineered (GE) diamondback moth, an insect that causes serious damage to cruciferous crops such as broccoli and cauliflower. The release would be the first open-air trial in the U.S. of a GE agricultural pest created with a technology that doesn't use sterility as a way to control population.

USDA's assessment supports the permit application by Dr. Anthony Shelton of Cornell University and paves the way for trials that would take place on the New York State Agricultural Experiment Station in bucolic upstate New York. Although the comment period occurred in the middle of planting season, the USDA did not honor a request by Northeast Organic Farming Association of New York and Food & Water Watch for a 30-day extension to allow interested parties to properly assess the complex report. Northeast Organic Farming Association of New York Liana Hoodes described the lack of an extension as "unfortunate for the farmers of the region who may be significantly affected by these trials."

If the permit is approved, Cornell will be able to release up to 30,000 GE moths per week for three to four months for up to two years. The modified moths are imported from Oxitec, Ltd. , the same British company that engineers the Aedes aegypti mosquitoes, which is at the center of a fierce controversy in the Florida Keys.

Oxitec's designer moth uses the same technology employed with their modified mosquitoes that have already been released in Brazil, Panama and the Cayman Islands. As in those programs, the male GE moth is not sterile but instead carries an engineered trait designed to kill most of its female offspring. However, although approximately 99 percent of the females will not survive to adulthood, many will die on the target crop, which raises concerns about ingestion of the tiny GE larvae by livestock, wildlife and humans if the process is eventually put into widespread use. In addition to this obvious ick factor, watchdog organizations have also questioned the use of tetracycline as the agent that switches off the lethality gene in the laboratory, citing antibiotic resistance among other issues.

This phase of the project follows closed cage trials that Cornell conducted in 2015. Critics of the open release proposal point out that data from those experiments have still not been published in a peer-reviewed journal. Consumer advocate groups—including the Center for Food Safety , Food & Water Watch, Northeast Organic Farming Association of New York, Consumers Union , GeneWatch UK and Friends of the Earth —have written to Cornell and asked for more details about the earlier trials.

"Doing this new environmental assessment without releasing previous data is irresponsible," Jaydee Hanson, Center for Food Safety senior policy analyst, said.

On the last day to submit comments, the USDA had received nearly 600 responses to their assessment of the open release plan, the overwhelming majority of which were opposed to granting the permit. About 40 commenters—primarily academics and conventional farming and biotech industry representatives—expressed support. Among those who asked the USDA to reject the proposal, commenter Jessica Visconti of Paramus, New Jersey, made a very simple plea: "Do not do this," she wrote.

22 May 2017. Sea Lion Drags Girl Into Water After Family's 'Reckless Behavior'

The viral video of a young girl snatched off a Richmond, British Columbia dock by a sea lion is another reminder that people shouldn't get too close to wild animals .

Port officials in Canada have sharply criticized the family for putting themselves at risk for feeding the large animal , especially since there are several signs in the area warning people not to do so.


"You wouldn't go up to a grizzly bear in the bush and hand him a ham sandwich, so you shouldn't be handing a thousand-pound wild mammal in the water slices of bread," Robert Kiesman, chair of the Steveston Harbour Authority, told CBC News .

"And you certainly shouldn't be letting your little girl sit on the edge of the dock with her dress hanging down after the sea lion has already snapped at her once," he added. "Just totally reckless behavior."

Footage of the Saturday encounter shows a sea lion eating bread that a family was tossing into the water. It then swims near the family, lunges out of the water and grabs the girl by her dress, pulling her into the water. The girl is quickly rescued and the family walks away in shock.Canada's Marine Mammal Regulations specify that "no person shall disturb a marine mammal except when fishing."

The signs at the docks even warn that sea lion bites "can cause very serious infections that may lead to amputation of a limb or even death." The maximum fine for "disturbing" a marine mammal is $100,000.

"You can only spend so much time protecting people from their reckless behavior," Kiesman continued. "We've now seen an example of why it's illegal to do this and why it's dangerous and frankly stupid to do this."

Andrew Trites, director of UBC's Marine Mammal Research Unit, told CBC News that the sea lion in the video seemed used to being fed by people and probably mistook the girl's dress for food.

Trites said the animal should not be blamed for its behavior as the animals are not inherently dangerous and are not looking to grab people. He hopes the video teaches others to not feed wild animals like sea lions.

Watch here:

22 May 2017. Scientists Go to Coldest Place on Earth to Collect Ice Cores for Future Generations to Study

By Alex Kirby

An ambitious scientific expedition is due to start work on May 22 on Bolivia's second-highest mountain, Illimani. The researchers plan to drill three ice cores from the Illimani glacier, and to store two of them in Antarctica as the start of the world's first ice archive.


The Ice Memory expedition , with members from Bolivia, Brazil, France and Russia, aims to collect ice cores from glaciers most at risk from climate change and to store them safely for future generations of scientists to study the climatic and environmental records they contain.

Bolivia's glaciers, in common with those across much of the world, are in serious trouble, so this is a natural destination for glaciologists . And the choice of Antarctica for storage is doubly inspired.

Storage in Antarctica

Not only is the continent home to the coldest place on Earth , and therefore physically promising, the Antarctic Treaty System also offers a unique degree of political protection, setting aside the continent as a scientific preserve, establishing freedom of scientific investigation and dedicating it for use exclusively for peaceful purposes.

This Andean expedition is Ice Memory's second quest for relevant cores to preserve; it sent a team to drill in the Mont Blanc massif in the French Alps in August 2016. The Bolivian team is due to finish work on June 18.

The peak of Illimani stands above the Bolivian capital, La Paz, reaching to more than 6,400 m (21,000 feet). The glacier starts several thousand feet below the summit. It lies between the wet Amazon basin and the dry Altiplano . It is slow-flowing, 140m deep, and holds climate and environment data stretching back 18,000 years, for example on rainfall trends, forest fires and pollution from human sources.

Drilling on the glacier will be difficult and dangerous. The 15-strong expedition team has already been in Bolivia for several weeks so they can acclimatize to the low atmospheric pressure. Illimani's high altitude is one of the main difficulties they face, the other being how to get their equipment to the drilling site. As it is inaccessible by helicopter, everything has to be carried up on the backs of the group's Bolivian guides.

Ice Cores

Working in two teams, the researchers will drill down through the glacier to the bedrock to extract the three ice cores, each about 150m long. The cores will then be carried down at night to the base camp, transported by refrigerated truck to La Paz and stored there in a refrigerated container.

At the end of the drilling, the container will be taken by truck to the Chilean border and shipped to Le Havre in France for transport to the expedition's base in the southern French city of Grenoble. One core will be kept there for analysis, in order to identify chemical tracers available with current technology and to create a permanent database accessible to the whole scientific community.

The other two cores will be taken to Concordia, the Franco-Italian research station on the Antarctic plateau, some time around 2020, for long-term storage and to inaugurate the ice archive of glaciers threatened by global warming.

Ice Memory was established by French glaciologists and their Italian partners from IGE Grenoble, Institut des géosciences de l'environnement .

Reposted with permission from our media associate Climate News Network .

22 May 2017. Cicadas Show Up 4 Years Early

Cicadas cropping up early in the mid-Atlantic region may be responding to climate change , scientists hypothesize.


Some of the unusual number of cicadas this year are seemingly part of an especially large periodical group called Brood X, which re-emerges every 17 years . Their appearance has surprised entomologists, who did not expect to see Brood X cicadas until 2021. Scientists believe extended growing seasons caused by climate change may be shortening the bugs' life cycles, causing them to emerge early.

"You could see many more individuals coming out four years early, and eventually those could become so numerous that they're self-reproducing," Chris Simon, a professor of ecology and evolutionary biology at the University of Connecticut, told the Baltimore Sun .

"If the conditions are really good, then a lot of them will come out," she added. "The longer the growing season, the higher the chance that a very large number will be ready four years early."

For a deeper dive:

Baltimore Sun , Popular Science , WAMU , Weather Channel

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22 May 2017. Switzerland Says No to Nukes, Yes to Renewables Following Historic Citizen Vote

More than 58 percent of Swiss voters supported a measure to phase out nuclear power in favor of renewable energy .

The plan provides billions in subsidies for renewable energy, bans the construction of new nuclear plants and decommissions Switzerland's five aging reactors. There is no clear date when the plants will close.


"The results shows the population wants a new energy policy and does not want any new nuclear plants," Energy Minister Doris Leuthard said, noting the law would also cut fossil fuel use and reduce reliance on foreign supplies.

"The law leads our country into a modern energy future," she said, and added that some parts of the law would take effect in early 2018.

Nuclear currently provides about a third of the country's electricity while solar and wind only accounts for five percent.

Under the law , billions in subsidies will be raised annually from electricity users to fund investment in renewable energy sources. The legislation calls for solar, wind, biomass and geothermal sources to rise at least 11,400 gigawatt hours by 2035 from 2,831 gigawatt hours now.

The plan also aims to cut the average energy consumption per person per year by 16 percent by 2020 and by 43 percent by 2035 compared to 2000 levels.

Switzerland is following in the footsteps of other European countries that are reducing its reliance on nuclear power in the wake of Japan's Fukushima disaster back in 2011. Germany is also closing its nuclear plants by 2022.

Opponents worry that the shift away from nuclear energy will be too costly. While Leuthard said financing renewables will cost an average family 40 Swiss francs ($41) a year, other critics warn that the cost might be much higher, at 3,200 Swiss francs ($3,290) in extra annual costs.

But the president of Switzerland 's Green party, Regula Rytz, called Sunday's referendum a "moment of historic change."

"The Swiss population has said 'no' to the construction of new nuclear power plants and yes to the development of renewable energy," Rytz added. "The conditions have also been set whereby the economy and households will need to take responsibility for the future. It's absolutely magnificent."

22 May 2017. Antarctic Warming Threatens World's Second Largest Ice Shelf

By Tim Radford

German scientists have worked out the process that could destroy an Antarctic ice shelf the size of Iraq.


They predict that, in a few decades, the oceanographic machinery that keeps the Ronne-Filchner ice shelf in the Weddell Sea will fail. A warm ocean will begin to eat away at the 450,000 square kilometer sheet of floating ice.

And the insulating zone of cold, very salty water that had for centuries served as a natural protection for the world's second largest ice shelf will have gone. The Southern Ocean will have been irrevocably changed.

The ice will lose its anchorage on the sea floor. This had served as a brake on glacial movement from the Antarctic mainland, so the flow of glacial ice from the continent to the sea will increase.

Less sea ice forming

"We can see the first signs of this trend today," says Hartmut Hellmer, an oceanographer at the Alfred Wegener Institute's Helmholtz Centre for Polar and Marine Research in Bremerhaven, Germany.

"First of all, less sea ice is forming in the region and, secondly, oceanographic recordings from the continental shelf break confirm that warm water masses are already moving closer and closer to the ice shelf in pulses."

He and colleagues report in the Journal of Climate that the self-amplifying feedback cycle that they have identified in the Weddell Sea could be irreversible—which means that the world's second largest ice shelf would shrink dramatically.

Other research teams have predicted that the melting of the south polar ice shelves could double by 2050 , that processes below the ice are causing fractures that result in huge icebergs , and that lessons from 15,000 years ago confirm that worldwide sea levels rose three meters as a consequence of a sudden warming of Antarctica .

So the German research is not a shock. But it does help climate scientists understand just how a region that had maintained a stable sheath of ice around itself for all human history could suddenly melt.

Ice shelves line 75 percent of the Antarctic coastline. The biggest ones are the Ross and Ronne-Filchner ice shelves, marked here in red and dark blue. National Snow and Ice Data Centre

The change begins in the sea itself. Ice melts in summer and freezes again in autumn and winter, releasing salt below the ice shelf to support a layer of insulating water as cold as minus 2°C . This has buffered the Ronne-Filchner ice shelf from inflowing water that is 0.8°C—almost three degrees warmer.

But rising air temperatures—and they are rising worldwide, thanks to the prodigal use of fossil fuels and the build-up of the greenhouse gas carbon dioxide—mean that less sea ice will form. And this will be the beginning of the transformation of the Weddell Sea. By 2070, changes will be visible.

"Our simulations show that there will be no turning back once the warm water masses find their way under the ice shelf, since their heat will accelerate the melting at its base," Hellmer said.

Carbon dioxide levels

"In turn, the resulting meltwater will produce an intensified overturning, which will suck even more warm water from the Weddell gyre under the ice. As such, according to our calculations, the hope that the ocean would some day run out of heat won't pan out in the long run."

The scientists start from the assumption that if humans go on burning fossil fuels at an ever-accelerating rate, carbon dioxide levels in the atmosphere will reach 700 parts per million. Through most of human history and prehistory, they have bobbed along at 280 ppm.

Right now, they stand at 400 ppm, and climates have already begun to change, with a corresponding climb in average global temperatures. Something comparable has already started to happen to the Amundsen Sea on the other side of the Antarctic Peninsula.

"When it comes to the Amundsen Sea, where warm water has already reached the continental shelf and even the grounding line of some ice shelves, we can safely say that this inflow of heat cannot be stopped; the climate regime change has already taken place," Hellmer said.

"In other words, the losses of mass of the West Antarctic Ice Sheet will intensify—just like the models predict."

Reposted with permission from Climate News Network .

22 May 2017. 'Doomsday' Seed Vault Flooded After Arctic Permafrost Melts

Flooding breached a supposedly impregnable Arctic "doomsday" vault containing a collection of seeds stored for an apocalypse scenario last week, after warmer-than-average temperatures caused a layer of permafrost to thaw.


Buried into a hillside on the Norwegian archipelago, the Svalbard Global Seed Vault contains more than 930,000 different varieties of seeds intended to ensure the safety of humanity's food supply in the event of a global disaster.

While no seeds were damaged, and while minor flooding does occur at the vault every year, the Norwegian government will redesign the vault to protect against increasingly extreme future flooding.

"It was not in our plans to think that the permafrost would not be there and that it would experience extreme weather like that," government official Hege Njaa Aschim told The Guardian .

"Drainage ditches will be constructed on the mountainside to prevent melt water from Platåfjellet accumulating around the access tunnel and to protect against water intrusion resulting from any climate change," according to a Crop Trust press statement .

For a deeper dive:

The Guardian , Washington Post , Quartz , BBC , Popular Science , NPR , Vox , Mashable

For more climate change and clean energy news, you can follow Climate Nexus on Twitter and Facebook , and sign up for daily Hot News .

21 May 2017. These Two Words Can Solve the Climate Crisis

If you want to see a solution to the climate crisis in your lifetime, they might be the two most important words you hear this year: carbon pricing .


Sure, the crisis is a complex challenge with no one solution. But while carbon pricing may not be a silver bullet, it's one we're going to need in the chamber—and critically, support is growing all along the political spectrum right when we need it.

First, a quick primer. Carbon pricing as a concept is basically just what it sounds like: attaching a market price to carbon pollution emitted from burning fossil fuels. From there, things get a little more complicated as there are several ways to do it.

Carbon Tax: The simplest approach, a carbon tax assigns a price to each unit of carbon emitted or the carbon content of a fuel, either for designated industries or entire societies. There's a clear cause and effect: the more carbon you burn and emissions you put into the air, the more you pay. Plus, the price rises over time, gradually putting more and more pressure on people or industries to cut their emissions.

Emissions Trading Scheme (ETS): Usually called "cap-and-trade" in the U.S., the principle is that a state, provincial or national government establishes a market with a limit on how much a designated set of industries can emit in a year (the "cap" part). The government then distributes and/or sells allowances to emit a certain amount to everyone in the market. If a company, for example, is going to emit more than it originally bought, it has to buy more from someone else in the market who's not planning to emit as much (the "trade" part).

Fuel Tax: This is where a government will directly tax a fuel based on the amount of say, coal itself, rather than the carbon it produces when burned.

Hybrid Instruments: An increasingly popular option, hybrid instruments combine elements of a carbon tax and an ETS.

There's more to say about each of these—and we've put together the 2017 Handbook on Carbon Pricing Instruments to say it—but the important thing is that each uses market forces to encourage people or companies to burn less carbon—and so put less pollution driving climate change into the air.

There's a flip side in that introducing some form of carbon pricing in turn makes low and no-carbon alternatives like solar and wind a lot more attractive because they don't carry the same costs as coal, oil, or gas. Users save money while investors start shifting more into renewables as demand for the better economic option grows, encouraging more development that encourages prices to drop even further. And on and on in a virtuous cycle.

The important point: done right, carbon pricing shifts the transition to a clean energy economy into high gear. And does it by making one part of our economic system a little more fair, a little more just.

That's because carbon pricing – as economists would say—helps to internalize externalities. As normal people would say, in many cases, those responsible for carbon pollution—think power plants, fossil fuel companies—aren't the ones paying the cost of climate change. That goes to kids suffering from more frequent asthma attacks or families watching wildfires devour their houses or a hundred other examples. Carbon pricing reverses that dynamic and puts something closer to the big-picture costs of carbon into the price of burning it.

Best of all, carbon pricing can appeal to pretty much every political persuasion—and in a time when at least in the U.S., Republicans and Democrats seem to have trouble agreeing on anything other than the virtues of spicy salmon rolls and bacon cheeseburgers —that's an important thing. More and more conservatives like carbon pricing because – if done right (and that's a big "if")—it can significantly cut government regulations and give businesses greater degrees of freedom, while achieving much of the same result. Better yet, carbon pricing can be designed to become revenue neutral, meaning the money generated from the plan goes back to individual taxpayers in one form or another.

This is the approach an all-star team of Republican thought leaders and policymakers from the Reagan and Bush administrations has taken, though there is a real danger of cutting regulators like the EPA almost completely out of the picture in exchange for a carbon price, as this plan would do. Meanwhile, one economist has even boiled an approach to carbon pricing he thinks can stop rising temperatures and heat up the economy down to one page .

On the other side of the spectrum, progressives like carbon pricing because, with the right design, it can help both cut down emissions and make the world a little more fair. Two factors in particular go into making this happen. First, structuring any plan to ensure that lower-income citizens get more in benefits than they personally pay in costs. Second, using a significant part of the revenue generated to actually lower emissions by investing in clean energy—and focusing investment in communities that are already suffering from climate impacts or fossil fuel industry pollution.

Progressives also like carbon pricing because it works in the real world. Scandinavian countries—Finland, Norway, and Sweden—were the first to embrace carbon pricing back in the 90s and contrary to the scare tactic stories you might expect, have actually seen their economies grow. After introducing a carbon tax in 1991, Sweden , for example, has seen emissions drop by 25 percent while its GDP has grown 60 percent—all with what has become the highest carbon tax in the world.

It's not just idyllic Scandinavian countries making carbon pricing work either. Until the election of a premier friendly to fossil fuel interests in 2012 stalled annual rate increases, British Columbia was showing how a revenue-neutral carbon tax could work in North America to cut emissions without impeding economic growth.

More carbon pricing is on the way, too. China—the world's largest carbon polluter—has been running ETS pilots in seven major industrial cities across the country with a view to launching a national system some time this year. In the U.S., lawmakers in Washington State, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, Connecticut, and Vermont have learned from past setbacks and are working to introduce plans at the state level . Plus, Canada just announced a new plan requiring all provinces to develop some approach to carbon pricing by 2018—or adopt a hybrid federal plan that's one part fuel tax and one part ETS.

It's not only the urgency of the crisis itself that's driving policymakers to look at carbon pricing as a feasible strategy for cutting emissions. After promising to cut emissions as part of the Paris agreement in 2015, many leaders started looking into real-world paths to live up to their commitments. In a world where no country wants to be the one that can't honor their word, carbon pricing looks like a very attractive and practical path forward.

The French writer Victor Hugo (author of The Hunchback of Notre Dame and Les Misérables , among others) once wrote, "You can resist an invading army; you cannot resist an idea whose time has come." For those who want to keep talking about glaciers in the present tense and pass a world we can be proud of on to our children, carbon pricing is an idea whose time has certainly come.

21 May 2017. Michael Mann: If You Believe in Science You Must Now Make Your Voice Heard

It's an honor to address this group of distinguished faculty, proud parents, supportive family members and friends.

We're gathered here in this idyllic location to celebrate the accomplishments of these young adults as they successfully complete one great challenge and prepare for others to come.

So please join me in congratulating Green Mountain College's (GMC) Class of 2017.


I'm especially honored to be giving the commencement speech at Green Mountain College for at least two reasons.

First of all, this is my home—broadly speaking.

I grew up in the foothills of the Green Mountains. Well, those of us in the slightly less "green" state of Massachusetts call them the Berkshires—but it is the same mountain range, the same magical small corner of the world.

Growing up in the town of Amherst, Massachusetts 100 miles southeast of here, I gained an appreciation for the wonder of nature hiking those mountains, wading in those streams, bicycling up and down those same hills.

I was an avid cyclist—though I didn't rack up the 4,000 miles a year that your president does.

Really? 4,000 miles a year President Allen?? [looking at him]

Have you tallied the carbon footprint of all of that respiration? I did (the nerd in me couldn't possibly resist). It's 95 entire kilograms of CO2 equivalent.

I hope that's been accounted for in GMC's carbon footprint estimates.

But let me get back on message…

The other reason I am so delighted to be here has to do with what Green Mountain College represents. Even the name of the college seems to speak unapologetically to its vision and its mission.

And GMC proudly advertises itself as "First in Sustainability."

Now talk is cheap of course. But GMC—and its students and graduates—haven't just talked the talk. They've walked the walk.

In this year's graduating class, for example, is a young woman named Keeley Titus. Keeley resided on the "sustainability floor" of her residence hall, which is built around locally raised food.

I have to say, I just love this story.

Keeley bottle-fed from birth two Nigerian dwarf goats named Margaret and Rose who reside at the college's farm. She's fed them 4 times a day. They are now old enough that Keely can produce fresh milk and cheese from them.

Keeley came to GMC because she wasn't interested in conventional programs focusing on big ag . She wanted to learn how to replicate sustainable food systems at the smaller mid-scale.

As Keeley notes, "I think that's the way we're moving as a country."

I think she's right. But only because of the efforts by her and other young leaders who are driven by the vision of a sustainable future—a vision undoubtedly nurtured by their experiences here at GMC.

For over two decades, this college has demonstrated an unmatched commitment to environmental, social and economic sustainability.

Amazingly, with an enrollment of only about 800 students (for the record—that's roughly the same size as my high school), the college offers majors in Environmental Studies, Renewable Energy & Ecological Design, Wilderness & Outdoor Therapy, Sustainable Agriculture & Food Production, Animal Conservation & Care and numerous minor options in the environmental and sustainability space. Students can also design their own majors.

But even more impressive is the way the college integrates the theme of environmental sustainability throughout students' educational experience via its unique Environmental Liberal Arts curriculum.

Students of all majors learn about the importance of social and ecological sustainability through coursework that stresses critical thinking, analysis and written expression.

And outside of class, the learning continues in the form of outings and field trips, and service learning projects.

This integrated focus creates a shared sense of purpose—because here, the environment is 100 percent relevant to every field.

The Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education awarded Green Mountain College the Campus Sustainability Leadership Award in 2007 for—and I quote:

"Commitment to environmental sustainability in its governance and administration, curriculum and research, operations, campus culture, and community outreach."

Green Mountain was named an EPA Energy Star Showcase Campus.

That GMC has received such accolades is not incidental.

Let me stress, once again, that GMC walks the walk. It recognizes:

1. Little Things Add Up ! Like the recent campus-wide retrofitting of light fixtures and students have installed a wind turbine to power the campus green house and solar panel on the roof of the student center.

2. Student Engagement is Critical: Through the Student Campus Greening Fund (SCGF) every GMC student contributes $30 from the college activities fee. Students design projects and submit proposals. Awards are based on a student vote. SCGF money has been used to install bike racks, purchase recycling bins, use bio-diesel in campus maintenance equipment and upgrade the alternative energy systems that power the farm greenhouse.

3. We Need to Think Big: Seven years ago, GMC opened a new combined heat and power biomass plant costing $5.8m.

4. Commitments Must be Actionable: In 2011, GMC became climate neutral. Only the second college in the nation to achieve this goal, and the first to do so through a significant reduction in on-site emissions achieved through efficiency, adoption of clean energy, and purchase of quantifiable local carbon offsets.

5. Peer Pressure Works: GMC's achievement of carbon neutrality in 2011 was followed by Colby College of Maine in 2013, and late last year, close-by Middlebury College.

In the end, though, it really comes down to the people. GMC's faculty are of course top notch and include leading thinkers, educators and practitioners in the sustainability space.

But it's truly the students who make GMC so special.

In recent years, GMC students have done internships with the Boston Aquarium, the Nature Conservancy, the United Nations, the Office of U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders.

They've done internships with Green Mountain Power and Duke Energy. Yes—sometimes change can come from within.

And so many of GMCs graduates are now working productively in the area of environmental sustainability.

Take for example Joe Bossen, class of 2008. As a student, he experimented with small community-based coop. After graduation he founded a company called "Vermont Bean Crafters"—as Joe puts it "joyfully serving the tastiest in local, organic and plant-based food."

Joe was named Vermont Young Entrepreneur of the Year by the Vermont Small Business Association in 2014.

Some of us grew up being told it's not easy being green.

But Joe is shining example that, with a bit of creativity, you can excel in both business and sustainability in today's world.

Or take Allan Coutinho—one of last year's graduates. Allan is a Brazilian native who was attracted by GMC's mission of social and environmental sustainability. He crafted a self-designed major that merged his interests in education and sustainable development. And he was the head of GMC's award-winning delegation to the UN's Model United Nations program.

He is now pursuing graduate studies at Harvard. He has said he doesn't think another school would have given him so many opportunities. And I suspect he's right about that.

Here are what a few other GMC graduates are doing today:

Kim Barrett—class of 2014, director of Kehoe Green Mountain Conservation Camp in Vermont.

Tori Knoss—class of 2012, naturalist, Pacific Whale Foundation, Maui, Hawaii.

Cory Cheever—class of 2008, environmental educator, Vermont Institute of Natural Science.

Keith Drinkwine—class of 2010, assistant director of Camps, Parks, & Forest, N.Y. State Dept. of Environmental Conservation.

Mindy Blank—class of 2010, adjunct professor of Environmental Studies at GMC. She participated in the history-making COP21 climate meeting in Paris in December 2015. She has also worked for the International Energy Agency helping countries accelerate the deployment of renewable energy .

The list goes on. And an impressive list it is.

At a time when our environment is most imperiled, your work—class of 2017—is more important than ever.

Now, let me regale you with a story about my own college experience.

In 1984, after graduating from Amherst High School, I headed off to Berkeley.

To demonstrate against the policies of Ronald Reagan, you ask?

To participate in sit-ins protesting Apartheid in South Africa, you ask?

Alas, no, I didn't go to protest or demonstrate.

I went there to study applied math and physics among some of the world's leading experts.

And ironically, it was that path turned out to be the one that would lead me toward confrontation and battle.

I would go on to study theoretical physics in graduate school and to move into the then-burgeoning field of climate research.

My path of discovery would ultimately lead to me to publish the now iconic "Hockey Stick" curve in the late 1990s.

The curve tells an unmistakable story, namely that the current warming spike is unprecedented as far back as we can go. Our continued burning of fossil fuels is the culprit.

And fossil fuel interests and front groups and politicians doing their bidding attacked it—and me.

Despite the numerous independent confirmations of my findings by the U.S. National Academy of Sciences and dozens of other assessments, the effort to discredit this research—and to discredit me personally—has continued.

I was initially reluctant about being at the center of the fractious societal debate over human-caused climate change .

But I have ultimately come to embrace that role. I have become convinced that there is no more noble pursuit we can engage in than to seek to insure that policy is informed by an objective assessment of scientific evidence.

That evidence now shows us that we face a stark choice, between a future with a little more climate change that we will still have to adapt to and cope with, and one with catastrophic climate change that will threaten the future of life as we know it.

And so here we are, at a crossroads.

Let me be blunt.

Never before have we witnessed science under the kind of assault it is being subject to right now in this country.

Nor have we witnessed an assault on the environment like the one we are witnessing in the current political atmosphere.

I will borrow and adapt—for our current time and place—the words of Martin Niemöller, a prominent Protestant pastor who emerged as an outspoken public foe of Adolf Hitler and spent the last seven years of Nazi rule in concentration camps:

First they came for the immigrants and I did not speak out—

Because I was not an immigrant.

Then they came for the scientists, and I did not speak out—

Because I was not a scientist.

Then they came for the environmentalists, and I did not speak out—

Because I was not an environmentalist.

Then they came for me—and there was no one left to speak for me.

Friends, let this not be our legacy.

Those of us who care about science and the role that science plays in our larger public discourse and those who care about environmental stewardship and a sustainable path forward must now make our voices heard.

Become involved. They are so many ways to speak out and to influence the dialogue. So many ways we can engage constructively with governmental, civic and corporate institutions in the realms of education, public policy and industry.

Past GMC graduates have gone on to become community planners, environmental lawyers, and directors of nonprofit organizations. Many now work for state and federal agencies or educational institutions.

My good friend Bill Nye , whom I marched with in Washington DC a few weeks ago at the March for Science , often ends his lectures with the exhortation "Change the World!"

Let me go just a bit further: Let me ask each of you to change the world for the better.

I am confident you will.

Godspeed to you all.

21 May 2017. Will Extracting the World's Most Abundant Fossil Fuel Release the Methane Monster?

Japan and China have successfully extracted methane hydrate —ice crystals with natural methane gas locked inside—from the ocean floor near their coastlines.

Commercial development of this frozen fossil fuel is considered by many countries as a key to energy security. However, releasing this massive methane monster is a potential environmental disaster.


According to the Associated Press , a drilling crew in Japan successfully extracted methane hydrate on May 4 near the Shima Peninsula. Similarly, Xinhua reported that a Chinese drilling rig extracted the fuel in the South China Sea on Thursday, with Chinese Minister of Land and Resources Jiang Daming heralding the event as a breakthrough that could spearhead a "global energy revolution."

Methane hydrate is created by organic matter decomposing under the ocean floor and is often called "combustible ice" because it can be lit on fire. It also happens to be one of world's most abundant fossil fuels.

As the AP reports, between 280 trillion cubic meters (10,000 trillion cubic feet) to 2,800 trillion cubic meters (100,000 trillion cubic feet) of it is trapped under permafrost and in seas around the Earth's continental shelves—meaning the fuel could meet global gas demands for 80 to 800 years at current consumption rates. In comparison, total natural gas production worldwide was only 3.5 billion cubic meters (124 billion cubic feet) in 2015.

While commercial development of methane hydrate is still decades away, it's no wonder that many countries and the fossil fuel industry are so excited by it. The U.S., Canada, India and South Korea are also pursuing the fuel. The U.S. Energy Department has pumped millions into researching the hydrocarbon.

However, unlocking the globe's vast swaths of methane buried deep in the sea has a number of risks. First, it can be costly and difficult. Japan, for instance, has invested around $700 million on methane-hydrate R&D over the past decade, getting only $16,000 worth of natural gas in return. In 2013, Japan stopped an effort to extract the fuel because sand from the seafloor was clogging their machinery.

And although we often talk about carbon dioxide being a climate change villain, methane hydrate is much, much worse—about 23 times more potent as a heat-trapping gas. If methane escaped or leaked during the extraction process, it could significantly increase greenhouse gas emissions.

It's already worrisome that the world's rising temperatures are causing permafrost to thaw , which is releasing methane. Now, countries are actively drilling into the world's seabeds to harvest this potentially dangerous fuel.

David Sandalow, a former senior official with the U.S. State Department now at Columbia University's Center on Global Energy Policy, told the AP that the fuel could displace renewables such as solar and wind power.

21 May 2017. Watch Richard Branson Sink This WWII Ship and Giant Steel Octopus

By Sabrina Imbler

The Kodiak Queen had a long, storied life . One of five vessels to survive the Dec. 7, 1941, attack on Pearl Harbor, the ship later traveled up north to serve as an Alaska king crab vessel and salmon tender.


She was one of the largest crab vessels at the time, plus one of the only converted WWII ships to have changed careers to seafood . She spent years in commercial fishing, and a significant part of her life submerged partially underwater due to disuse.

At the turn of the 21st century, it seemed like the Kodiak Queen had lived out her best years and had no future, at least above the waves.

But then Project YOKO B.V.I. Art Reef came along. The multisyllabic project wanted to save coral reefs and give an honorific burial to a ship that had served her country time and time again.

And so the Kodiak Queen was given a new mission. Watch here:

The project is a collaboration between Sir Richard Branson, the artist collective Secret Samurai Productions , the social justice group Maverick1000 , the ocean nonprofit Beneath the Waves and the British Virgin Islands nonprofit Unite BVI , the New York Times reported . In other words, there are a lot of hands on deck.

The project began when historian Mike Cochran found the ship rusting in a junkyard and created a website to try to save the Kodiak Queen . The site soon caught the eye of none other than Richard Branson, the famed British philanthropist, who approved a proposal to convert the ship into an artificial reef.

But it's not just the Kodiak Queen that sunk back beneath the waves. Secret Samurai Productions spent several months cleaning up the ship and designing a monstrous sea-monster kraken with 80-foot-long tentacles and a frame of pure steel.

And so the final product that sunk to the bottom of the sea comprised a noble ship past her glory days and a conservation-minded artificial reef shaped like a giant octopus.

In the months following the Kodiak Queen's sinking, scientists are monitoring the fish populations that have chosen the ship and its resultant reef as their new home.

They're particularly excited by the prospect of making a home for the goliath grouper, a titanic fish that's been disappearing from the water of the British Virgin Islands.

Recreational divers will soon be able to dive by the wreck and see the kraken up-close, as well as a healthy community of fish and corals.

Reposted with permission from our media associate Azula .

20 May 2017. The Elephant in the Room That Smells Like Natural Gas

By Julie McNamara

A curious thing happened in the aftermath of President Trump attempting to sign away the past eight years of work on climate and clean energy: The public face of progress didn't flinch. From north to south and east to west, utilities and businesses and states and cities swore their decarbonization compasses were unswerving; yes, they said, we're still closing coal plants, and yes, yes!, we're still building ever more wind and solar —it just makes sense.


But here's why all the subsequent commentary reiterating the inevitability of coal's decline and cheering the unsinkable strength of renewables' rise was right in facts, but incomplete in message:

Coal is closing. Renewables are rising. But right now , we need to be talking about natural gas.

We're Fine Without a Map…

President Trump accompanied his signature on the executive order on energy independence with a vow that the order would put the coal industry " back to work ." But shortly thereafter, even those in the business reported they weren't banking on a turn-around . Coal plants just keep shutting down:

This map shows coal units that have retired just between 2007 and 2016—many more have been announced for closure in the near future. U.S. EIA, Generator Monthly

At the same time, renewable resources have been absolutely blowing the wheels off expectations and projections, with costs plummeting and deployment surging . The renewable energy transformation is just that—a power sector transformation—and it certainly appears there's no going back:

Wind and solar capacity has been growing rapidly since the early 2000s. U.S. EIA

Now when you put these two trajectories together, you end up with an electric power sector that has, in recent years, steadily reduced its carbon dioxide emissions:

Three positive charts, and three tremendous reasons to cheer ( which we do a lot, and won't soon stop —clean energy momentum is real and it's rolling). The problem is, these charts only capture part of the energy sector story.

What's missing? Natural gas. Or, what is now the largest—and still growing—source of carbon emissions in the electric power sector.

…Until We Finally Realize We're Lost

There are two phases to climate change emissions reductions conversations. In Phase 1, we acknowledge that a problem exists, we recognize we're a big reason for that problem, and we take action to initiate change. With the exception of just a few of the most powerful people in our government ( oh them ), we seem to have Phase 1 pretty well in hand. Cue the stories about the triumphant resilience of our climate resolve.

The trouble is Phase 2.

In Phase 2, we move to specifics. Namely, specifics about what the waypoints are, and by when we need to reach them. This is the conversation that produces glum replies—and it's the source of those weighty , distraught affairs scattered among the buoyant takes on the recent executive order—because the truth is:

• We know what the waypoints are,

• We know by when we need to reach them, and

• We know that currently, we're not on track.

Without a map, we're left feeling good about the (real and true) broad-brush successes of our trajectory—emissions reductions from the retirement of coal plants; technology and economic improvements accelerating the deployment of renewables—but we have no means by which to measure the adequacy of our decarbonization timeline.

As a result, we put ourselves at grave risk of failing to catch the insufficiency of any path we're on. And right now? That risk has the potential to become reality as our nation, propelled by the anti-regulatory , pro-fossil policies of the Trump administration, lurches toward a wholesale capitulation to natural gas.

Natural Gas and Climate Change

Last year, carbon dioxide emissions from coal-fired power plants fell 8.6 percent . But take a look at the right-hand panel in the graph below. See what's not going down? Emissions from natural gas. In fact, carbon dioxide emissions from natural gas overtook coal emissions last year, even omitting the additional climate impacts from methane released during natural gas production and distribution.

Bridge fuel? Not so much.

There's no sign of the trend stopping, either. Natural gas plants have been popping up all across the country, and new plants keep getting proposed—natural gas generators now comprise more than 40 percent of all electric generating capacity in the U.S.

Natural gas plants are located all across the country, and new projects keep getting proposed. U.S. EIA

And all those natural gas plants mean even more gas pipelines. According to project tracking by S&P Global Market Intelligence, an additional 70 million Dth/d of gas pipeline capacity has been proposed to come online by the early 2020s (subscription). That is a lot of gas, and would require the commitment of a lot of investment dollars.

When plants are built, pipelines are laid, and dollars are committed, it becomes incredibly hard to convince regulators to force utilities to let it all go.

Still, that's what the markets—and the climate—will demand. As a result, ratepayers may be on the hook for generators' bad bets.

The thing is, we know today the external costs of these investments , and the tremendous risks of our growing overreliance on natural gas. So why do these assets keep getting built?

Because many of our regulators, utilities and investors are working without a map.

Now there are a growing number of states stepping up where the federal government has faltered, and beginning to make thoughtful energy decisions based on specific visions of long-term decarbonization goals, like in California , the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative states , and as recently as this week, Virginia . Further, an increasing number of insightful and rigorous theoretical maps are being developed, like the U.S. Mid-Century Strategy for Deep Decarbonization , amongst many others ( Union of Concerned Scientists included ).

But for the vast majority of the country, the main maps upon which decarbonization pathways were beginning to be based—the Clean Power Plan and the Paris climate agreement —are both at immediate risk of losing their status as guiding lights here in the U.S., sitting as they are beneath the looming specter of the Trump administration's war on facts.

Plotting a Course to a Better Tomorrow

So where to from here? Ultimately, there is far too much at stake for us to simply hope we're heading down the right path. Instead, we need to be charting our course to the future based on all of the relevant information, not just some of it.

To start, we recommend policies that include:

• Moving forward with implementation of the Clean Power Plan, a strong and scientifically rigorous federal carbon standard for power plants.

• Developing, supporting and strengthening state and federal clean energy policies, including renewable electricity standards, energy efficiency standards, carbon pricing programs, and investment in the research, development, and deployment of clean energy technologies.

• Defending and maintaining regulations for fugitive methane emissions, and mitigating the potential public health and safety risks associated with natural gas production and distribution.

• Improving grid operation and resource planning such that the full value and contributions of renewable resources, energy efficiency, and demand management are recognized, facilitated, and supported.

We need to show that where we're currently heading isn't where we want to be.

We need to talk about natural gas.

Julie McNamara is an energy analyst with the Climate & Energy program at the Union of Concerned Scientists , where she analyzes state, regional and national policies relating to clean energy development and deployment.

20 May 2017. Bears Ears: We Must Protect This Spectacular, Sacred American Monument

By Mike Matz

Eighty-one years ago, Franklin Roosevelt's secretary of the interior, Harold Ickes, proposed a vast, four million-acre national monument for southern Utah. Over the ensuing decades, pieces of Ickes' vision were realized in the establishment of Canyonlands and Capitol Reef national parks, Glen Canyon National Recreation Area and Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument.


Last year, another president and his interior secretary took a big step toward completing Ickes' dream. At the request of five Native American tribes living in the vicinity, and after nearly a weeklong tour by former Interior Sec. Sally Jewell of places proposed for protection, Barack Obama signed a proclamation under authority of the Antiquities Act to designate 1.3 million acres of land as the Bears Ears National Monument .

The move protected an area of sublime beauty and major cultural significance: Bears Ears includes more than 100,000 archeological sites.

"We worked very closely with our scientists, people on the ground, people in the communities that know these landscapes well, the tribes, particularly in [the] case of Bears Ears, that understood what's needed for hunting, gathering and traditional practices and sacred sites," Jewell recently told the Salt Lake Tribune . "Those shaped the boundaries of these monuments which were very carefully thought out."

On April 26, President Donald Trump took action that could begin to unravel the achievement of this decades-long vision. He signed an order directing Interior Sec. Ryan Zinke to review all national monuments established in the past 21 years—upward of two dozen sites in states primarily across the West, including Bears Ears and Grand Staircase-Escalante—to assess whether the "reservation" of these public lands is "the smallest area compatible with proper care and management of the objects to be protected" and whether the "designated lands" are really "historic landmarks, historic and prehistoric structures."

Hikers approach a sandstone spire formation on the Owl Canyon trail in Bears Ears National Monument. Bob Lingner

In late March, I visited Bears Ears with friends. We camped at the head of Mule Canyon, spent time at a rim overlooking Arch Canyon, and hiked into Owl Canyon and up Indian Creek. Our conclusion: This is a spectacular place. Sec. Ickes in 1936 and the coalition of tribes last year were absolutely right in pushing for its protection, and all Americans are fortunate to have this natural heritage preserved for them and their children and grandchildren.

Throughout the monument, we saw prehistoric structures and historic landmarks, from the intricately built stone watchtowers that guarded a water spring at the head of the canyon to Newspaper Rock, a sandstone slab filled with centuries' worth of pictographs.

These 2,000-year-old petroglyphs on Newspaper Rock near Monticello, Utah, are within the Bears Ears National Monument boundary. Bob Lingner

We heard coyotes yipping at dawn, just as the sky was beginning to light the red rock afire. High up a sandstone fin we spied ancient cliff dwellings carved into the nearly vertical rock face. In the deep blue of a cloudless day, an arch spanning two precipitous ridges cast a stripe of shade on the canyon bottom where we hiked. We saw elk traversing a mesa through sagebrush flats and deer browsing in juniper-pinyon forests.

Each of these moments is etched upon our memories, and we count ourselves lucky to have found Bears Ears as it has always been.

It is now up to all citizens to speak up for our national monuments. Submit your comment by May 26 to urge President Trump and Sec. Zinke to preserve Bears Ears as it was approved. My friends and I have. Having experienced this special place ourselves, we are now personally invested in its intact protection so that our children and grandchildren can explore and enjoy it as we have.

Nevills Arch in Owl Canyon off Cedar Mesa in the monument. Bob Lingner

Mike Matz directs The Pew Charitable Trust's U.S. public lands program, focusing on wilderness and national monument projects .

20 May 2017. 6 Ways Utilities Are Meeting Corporate Demand for Renewable Energy

By Letha Tawney, Celina Bonugli and Daniel Melling

Utilities are breaking away from traditional electricity products to offer customers access to large-scale renewable energy . Until very recently, utilities did not differentiate the sort of power they offered customers. With very few exceptions, everyone shared in the cost and used electricity from the same fleet of power generating stations.


But over the past four years, even regulated U.S. utilities have begun to offer new, large-scale renewable energy options to customers. World Resources Institute data shows that across ten U.S. states, utilities now offer 13 green tariffs—programs that let customers purchase large-scale renewable energy over the grid.

We take a closer look at the trends and motivations that have made utilities important players in the rapid scale up of renewable energy to serve corporate buyers in the U.S.

1. Why are utilities stepping up?

In markets where wind and solar power have become cost competitive , utilities have more economic incentives to add renewable energy. Renewable resources just offer a great low price for the next 20 years—without the risks of fossil fuel price spikes.

Utility leaders overwhelmingly anticipate substantial solar and wind power growth in the next ten years, according to Utility Dive's 2017 survey of the sector . Among utility executives, 71 percent say utility scale wind will increase moderately or significantly over the next ten years and 82 percent predict the same for utility scale solar.

Recently, Pat Vincent-Collawn, CEO of PNM Resources announced a plan to eliminate coal by 2031 and move toward renewables and natural gas, calling it "the best, most economical path to a strong energy future for New Mexico." WEC Energy Group CEO Allen Leverett told shareholders in May 2017 that the company is exploring solar, "probably the biggest change we've seen in last five years is solar and the cost of solar. The technology curve really has fallen fast in terms of improvement in cost."

Mid-American, a Berkshire Hathaway Energy subsidiary, has talked about their extensive investments in wind in the same way—as an effective way to keep prices low for customers. The company also used their wind investments to serve the renewable energy requirements of major data centers , such as Facebook and Google , in their service territory.

2. How big is the demand for renewable energy on the grid?

Through RE100, 90 companies have committed to 100 percent renewable power. Clean energy and greenhouse gas reduction targets are now the norm for Fortune 500 and Fortune 100 companies. World Wildlife Fund and Ceres' Power Forward 3.0 report shows that almost half of the Fortune 500 and a majority of the Fortune 100 now have climate and energy targets.

Companies with renewable energy commitments can only go so far with on-site solar and efficiency. To meet the most ambitious targets, like a 100 percent renewable energy goal, companies have to tap into the grid and are turning to their utility to provide solutions.

Big businesses have communicated their needs to U.S. utilities. Sixty-five companies have signed on to the Renewable Energy Buyers' Principles , which tell utilities and other suppliers what industry-leading, multinational companies are looking for when buying renewable energy from the grid.

And utilities are listening. Utilities without green tariffs or state mandates are still considering new renewable energy options to attract businesses. Describing a new wind project, Appalachian Power's new president Chris Beam told the Charleston Gazette Mail, "at the end of the day, West Virginia may not require us to be clean, but our customers are […] we have to be mindful of what our customers want."

3. How are utilities stepping up?

To meet customer demand for renewable energy, traditional utilities have now created 13 green tariff options across 10 states. In the six months since the last update to World Resources Institute's issue brief, Emerging Green Tariffs in U.S. Regulated Electricity Markets , utilities have added three more green tariffs options—including the first offered by a public power company, Nebraska's Omaha Public Power District.

States with renewable energy options are more competitive when attracting high-growth corporate business. When Omaha Public Power District announced a new green tariff to supply a Facebook data center, Tim Burke, Omaha Public Power District's president and CEO, told the Omaha World-Herald, "we have several customers right now that are putting together potential expansion projects and will utilize that (new) rate to grow."

4. What is the impact of green tariffs on the grid?

Who is using these tariffs? To date, customers have contracted for approximately 900 MW of new renewable energy under five of the tariffs. This is approximately enough electricity to power 160,000 average American homes a year . This spring, utilities and customers are negotiating hundreds more megawatts of additional purchases.

In April 2017 alone, major announcements from Puget Sound Energy and Omaha Public Power District , confirm that buyers are ready and willing to act in partnership with their utility.

5. How can customers keep up with these new options?

World Resources Institute's interactive U.S. Renewable Energy Map : A Guide For Corporate Buyers shows all the green tariffs that utilities offer across the nation. The map also details one-on-one special contracts that customers have signed with utilities. These special contracts show a utility is willing to explore options, even if they haven't gone as far as creating a new tariff.

6. What's next?

Today green tariffs are a small part of the overall U.S. renewable energy market—reflecting their pilot status. But the programs create a runway for renewables at a time when demand is only increasing, not just from businesses, but also cities, universities, hospitals and smaller companies.

Innovative partnerships will continue to emerge between utilities and their customers as both grapple with the rapidly changing electricity sector. Green tariffs are only three years old, but with increasing demand, interest in renewables by utilities and the continued fall in renewable energy prices, green tariffs look like they're here to stay.

19 May 2017. Spectra Energy Got to Edit Its Air Pollution Permit for Atlantic Bridge Gas Project

By Itai Vardi

Massachusetts environmental officials allowed Spectra Energy to quietly review and edit a draft approval of an air pollution permit the state plans to grant the company for its Atlantic Bridge gas project .


According to emails obtained by DeSmog through an open records request, this privilege of reviewing and editing the draft approval was granted exclusively to Spectra and not to the general public.

Editing Compressor Project's Draft Pollution Permit

As part of the project, a planned expansion of Spectra's Algonquin pipeline through the northeast U.S., the company intends to build a new gas compressor station in Weymouth, Massachusetts. In February, Spectra was officially acquired by Canadian energy giant, Enbridge.

Since the compressor station will emit various pollutants, it requires environmental permits from state authorities. Spectra submitted an air quality application to the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) in October 2015.

Emails show that within a few months, state officials had already drafted a preliminary permit or "plan approval," of the application.

Then, in February 2016, the DEP's Permitting Chief for the Southeast Region, Thomas Cushing, sent the draft for editing to David Cotter of Trinity Consultants, Spectra's air pollution contractor in the project. Cushing wrote, "David, [A]s discussed, I attached a rough draft of the Algonquin approval for your review and comment."

At that point, the draft was already written on the DEP's official letterhead and addressed to Spectra's Houston headquarters.

Cotter returned the draft to Cushing in early April 2016, after revising it in numerous places using Microsoft Word's track changes tool. In his edits, Cotter changed text, deleted several words and data, and inserted comments.

"Thank you for offering us the opportunity to provide comment on the preliminary draft of the Weymouth permit," Cotter wrote to DEP's Cushing. "Based on your responses to our recommended edits and changes the next version of the draft permit will be forwarded to Spectra for review. We look forward to working with you as we move forward to the final permit."

Cushing wrote back to Cotter, saying: "I took a quick read and can accept most changes, but some I can't. Can I call Friday and discuss?"

Early Draft "Will Not Be Provided to the Public"

In late April Cotter provided an update to Kate Brown, Spectra's consulting scientist in the project, saying that Cushing will send soon the draft for Spectra's review and comment. "Note that this is a client review copy and will not be provided to the public," Cotter assured Brown.

From an email between Spectra consultant David Cotter and Spectra's consulting scientist, Kate Brown, indicating the company's exclusivity in editing the draft permit.

On June 17, 2016, DEP 's Cushing finally sent the draft approval to Brown and Ralph Child, an attorney for Mintz Levin, a firm providing legal and permitting services to Spectra in the project. "Please provide comment as appropriate," Cushing wrote. "Feel free to call me to discuss."

Brown sent Spectra's edits on the document back to Cushing in December, writing: "Hi Tom, [A]ttached is the draft Weymouth Compressor Station plan approval, incorporating language as discussed in our meeting last week." As Cotter had done previously, Brown changed and deleted text, and inserted comments.

Cushing allowed Spectra one more round of edits in January this year. Spectra's Brown wrote to him on Jan. 13: "Hi Tom—Attached is the draft Weymouth Compressor Station plan approval, including all Algonquin comments on the plan approval, to date, and incorporating the additional information you requested when we last spoke on 12/29/16."

Cushing also asked Spectra to resubmit a modified application for the permit.

What the Public Didn't See in the Draft Permit

On March 30 this year, the DEP published on its website the draft plan approval, addressed to Spectra's corporate vice president of field operation. Due to the contentious nature of the project, the DEP allowed for a month-long public comment period on the draft before deciding on a final permit.

Comparing Cushing's original draft approval document to the Spectra-revised and final one reveals the DEP had accepted many of the company's edits. For example, Spectra increased the threshold for what will be considered a leak from a pipe seal, from Cushing's original 2,000 parts per million by volume (ppmv) to 10,000 ppmv.

Spectra also removed from the original draft a requirement for the station's initial compliance testing for sulfur dioxide and PM10, which refers to small particulate matter. Both were edited out of the draft approval published online.

On the top, from DEP's original draft approval of the Weymouth compressor pollution permit. Below that, the draft with edits by Spectra Energy.

Following the publication of the draft approval, the DEP received many public comments in opposition to the draft permit. These include a letter by 13 Massachusetts lawmakers who cite various health and safety hazards to the many residents living close to the station, as well as the project's contradiction to the state's goals of reducing greenhouse gas emissions.

Spectra Asks for Exemptions from Emission Standards

Spectra apparently also benefitted from the constant phone communication with Cushing, the state official. Emails show that Cushing originally planned to include the station's separator vessel and condensate storage tanks as individual emission units subject to the state's pollution standards.

But following Spectra's request to include these as fugitive emissions exempt from individual emission standards, Cushing seems to have changed his mind.

"Tom was fine with us wanting to include the tanks as fugitives and asked that we send him an email containing a description on how the tanks operate along with our reasoning on why they should be included as fugitives so that he could review," Cotter reported to Spectra in April 2016.

These revelations come shortly after Massachusetts Secretary of Energy and Environmental Affairs Matthew Beaton promised to assess Spectra's pending state permits on their merits and "not in any predetermined way."

Yet DeSmog recently revealed the cozy relationship the company's lobbyists in the state had forged in the past two years with its top environmental decision makers, particularly Beaton and his undersecretary, Ned Bartlett. Another of Spectra's lobbyists, ML Strategies, the lobbying arm of law firm Mintz Levin, has connections to Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker.

DeSmog reached out to but did not receive responses from Spectra Energy, Massachusetts DEP and Thomas Cushing.

Reposted with permission from our media associate DeSmogBlog .

19 May 2017. World-Renowned Photographer Documents Most Remote Ecosystems on Earth

By Andrea Kavanagh

World-renowned photojournalist Paul Nicklen , who has been documenting the polar regions and their native wildlife for more than 20 years, is motivated by more than the quest for a great shot.


He is on a mission to generate global awareness of the changing environment and threats to wildlife in both the Arctic and Antarctic , a drive he attributes to growing up among the Inuit in Canada and his early career as a marine biologist.

"I want my photos to document some of the most remote and stunning ecosystems on Earth and to show what's at risk if we don't protect our environment," Nicklen said.

He posts images to the 3.2 million followers of his popular Instagram feed of the animals and people he encounters while traveling, and seizes every opportunity to explain the importance of conserving some of the last untouched ecosystems on the planet .

On World Penguin Day , Nicklen provided stunning imagery of the iconic birds, taken during his visits to Antarctica, for a "takeover" of The Pew Charitable Trusts ' conservation-focused Instagram feed .

Nicklen said the key to successfully photographing animals in the wild is patience. "You can't disturb your subjects or expect a quick shot. But if you keep watching, the natural world reveals itself in all of its incredible beauty."

Nicklen knows from extensive firsthand experience what is at stake if conservation of the polar regions is delayed.

"If we lose the sea ice , we lose this ecosystem," he observed. "While photographing Antarctica over the past two decades, I've seen [the] changes." Nicklen added that the oceans can be very resilient if humans take action to protect them. The 2016 designation of the world's largest marine protected area in the Ross Sea was a good first step. Now, he said, "we must protect more of these Antarctic ecosystems."

A full network of marine protected areas in the Southern Ocean would not only preserve connectivity among the many unique ecosystems in the region but also allow marine life to migrate between protected areas for breeding and foraging. Other reasons for shielding these areas from unrestrained human activity include how the circumpolar currents help sustain life well outside the region and Antarctica's role as a relatively pristine "living laboratory" for scientists studying climate change .

This October, two proposals for Southern Ocean marine protected areas are up for consideration during the annual meeting of the Commission for the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources, the management body established to protect the Southern Ocean's biodiversity. One area would protect the Weddell Sea and the other would safeguard the waters off East Antarctica. If both are designated, the Commission for the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources's 25 member governments would move closer to fulfilling the commitment they made in 2002 to establish a network of marine protected areas and preserve the intact and biodiverse Antarctic ecosystems for future generations.

Andrea Kavanagh directs The Pew Charitable Trusts' global penguin conservation program.

19 May 2017. 11 Foods That Boost Your Brain and Memory

By Kerri-Ann Jennings

Your brain is kind of a big deal.


As the control center of your body, it's in charge of keeping your heart beating and lungs breathing and allowing you move, feel and think.

That's why it's a good idea to keep your brain in peak working condition.

The foods you eat play a role in keeping your brain healthy and can improve specific mental tasks, such as memory and concentration.

This article lists 11 foods that boost your brain.

1. Fatty Fish

When people talk about brain foods, fatty fish is often at the top of the list.

This type of fish includes salmon, trout and sardines, which are all rich sources of omega-3 fatty acids ( 1 ).

About 60 percent of your brain is made of fat, and half of that fat is the omega-3 kind ( 2 ).

Your brain uses omega-3s to build brain and nerve cells, and these fats are essential for learning and memory ( 2 , 3 ).

Omega 3-s also have a couple additional benefits for your brain.

For one thing, they may slow age-related mental decline and help ward off Alzheimer's disease ( 4 , 5 , 6 , 7 ).

On the flip side, not getting enough omega-3s is linked to learning impairments, as well as depression ( 3 , 8 ).

In general, eating fish seems to have positive health benefits .

One study found that people who ate baked or broiled fish regularly had more gray matter in their brains. Gray matter contains most of the nerve cells that control decision making, memory and emotion ( 9 ).

Overall, fatty fish is an excellent choice for brain health.

Summary: Fatty fish is a rich source of omega-3s, a major building block of the brain. Omega-3s play a role in sharpening memory and improving mood, as well as protecting your brain against decline.

2. Coffee

If coffee is the highlight of your morning, you'll be glad to hear that it's good for you.

Two main components in coffee—caffeine and antioxidants—help your brain.

The caffeine in coffee has a number of positive effects on the brain, including ( 9 ):

• Increases alertness: Caffeine keeps your brain alert by blocking adenosine, a chemical messenger that makes you sleepy ( 10 , 11 , 12 ).

• Improves mood: Caffeine may also boost some of your "feel-good" neurotransmitters, such as serotonin ( 13 ).

• Sharpens concentration: One study found that when participants drank one large coffee in the morning or smaller amounts throughout the day, they were more effective at tasks that required concentration ( 14 ).

Drinking coffee over the long term is also linked to a reduced risk of neurological diseases, such as Parkinson's and Alzheimer's ( 9 ).

This could at least be partly due to coffee's high concentration of antioxidants ( 15 ).

Summary: Coffee can help boost alertness and mood. It may also offer some protection against Alzheimer's, thanks to its caffeine and antioxidants.

3. Blueberries

Blueberries provide numerous health benefits , including some that are specifically for your brain.

Blueberries and other deeply colored berries deliver anthocyanins, a type of plant compound with anti-inflammatory and antioxidant effects ( 16 ).

Both inflammation and free radicals, which are destroyed by antioxidants, contribute to brain aging and neurodegenerative diseases ( 16 ).

Some of the antioxidants in blueberries have been found to accumulate in the brain and help improve communication between brain cells ( 16 , 17 ).

Animal studies have shown that blueberries help improve memory and may even delay short-term memory loss ( 18 , 19 , 20 ).

Try sprinkling them on your breakfast cereal or adding them to a smoothie.

Summary: Blueberries are packed with antioxidants that may delay brain aging and improve memory.

4. Turmeric

Turmeric has generated a lot of buzz recently.

This deep-yellow spice is a key ingredient in curry powder and has a number of benefits for the brain.

Curcumin, the active ingredient in turmeric , has been shown to cross the blood-brain barrier, meaning it can directly enter the brain and benefit the cells there ( 21 ).

It's a potent antioxidant and anti-inflammatory compound that has been linked to the following brain benefits:

• May benefit memory: Curcumin may help improve memory in people with Alzheimer's. It may also help clear the amyloid plaques that are a hallmark of this disease ( 21 , 22 ).

• Eases depression: It boosts serotonin and dopamine, which both improve mood. One study found curcumin improved depression symptoms just as much as an antidepressant over six weeks ( 23 , 24 ).

• Helps new brain cells grow: Curcumin boosts brain-derived neurotrophic factor, a type of growth hormone that helps brain cells grow. It may help delay age-related mental decline, but more research is needed ( 25 ).

To reap the benefits of curcumin, try cooking with curry powder, adding turmeric to potato dishes to turn them golden or making turmeric tea.

Summary: Turmeric and its active compound curcumin have strong anti-inflammatory and antioxidant benefits, which help the brain. In research, it has reduced symptoms of depression and Alzheimer's disease.

5. Broccoli

Broccoli is packed with powerful plant compounds, including antioxidants ( 26 ).

It's also very high in vitamin K, delivering more than 100 percent of the Recommended Daily Intake (RDI) in a 1-cup (91-gram) serving ( 27 ).

This fat-soluble vitamin is essential for forming sphingolipids, a type of fat that's densely packed into brain cells ( 28 ).

A few studies in older adults have linked a higher vitamin K intake to better memory ( 29 , 30 ).

Beyond vitamin K, broccoli contains a number of compounds that give it anti-inflammatory and antioxidant effects, which may help protect the brain against damage ( 31 ).

Summary: Broccoli contains a number of compounds that have powerful antioxidant and anti-inflammatory effects, including vitamin K.

6. Pumpkin Seeds

Pumpkin seeds contain powerful antioxidants that protect the body and brain from free radical damage ( 31 ).

They're also an excellent source of magnesium, iron, zinc and copper ( 32 ).

Each of these nutrients is important for brain health:

• Zinc: This element is crucial for nerve signaling. Zinc deficiency has been linked to many neurological conditions, including Alzheimer's disease, depression and Parkinson's disease ( 33 , 34 , 35 ).

• Magnesium: Magnesium is essential for learning and memory. Low magnesium levels are linked to many neurological diseases, including migraines, depression and epilepsy ( 36 , 37 ).

• Copper: Your brain uses copper to help control nerve signals. And when copper levels are out of whack, there's a higher risk of neurodegenerative disorders, such as Alzheimer's ( 38 , 39 ).

• Iron: Iron deficiency is often characterized by brain fog and impaired brain function ( 40 ).

The research focuses mostly on these micronutrients, rather than pumpkin seeds themselves. However, since pumpkin seeds are high in these micronutrients, you can likely reap their benefits by adding pumpkin seeds to your diet.

Summary: Pumpkin seeds are rich in many micronutrients that are important for brain function, including copper, iron, magnesium and zinc.

7. Dark Chocolate

Dark chocolate and cocoa powder are packed with a few brain-boosting compounds, including flavonoids, caffeine and antioxidants.

Flavonoids are a type of antioxidant plant compound.

The flavonoids in chocolate gather in the areas of the brain that deal with learning and memory. Researchers say these compounds may enhance memory and also help slow down age-related mental decline ( 41 , 42 , 43 , 44 ).

In fact, a number of studies back this up ( 45 , 46 , 47 ).

In one study including more than 900 people, those who ate chocolate more frequently performed better in a series of mental tasks, including some involving memory, than those who rarely ate it ( 45 ).

Chocolate is also a legitimate mood booster, according to research.

One study found that participants who ate chocolate experienced increased positive feelings, compared to participants who ate crackers ( 48 ).

However, it's still not clear whether that's because of compounds in the chocolate, or simply because the yummy flavor makes people happy ( 48 ).

Summary: The flavonoids in chocolate may help protect the brain. Studies have suggested that eating chocolate could boost both memory and mood.

8. Nuts

Research has shown that eating nuts can improve markers of heart health, and having a healthy heart is linked to having a healthy brain ( 49 , 50 ).

A 2014 review showed that nuts can improve cognition and even help prevent neurodegenerative diseases ( 51 ).

Also, another large study found that women who ate nuts regularly over the course of several years had a sharper memory, compared to those who didn't eat nuts ( 49 ).

Several nutrients in nuts, such as healthy fats, antioxidants and vitamin E, may explain their brain-health benefits ( 52 , 53 ).

Vitamin E shields cell membranes from free radical damage, helping slow mental decline ( 54 , 55 , 56 ).

While all nuts are good for your brain, walnuts may have an extra edge, since they also deliver omega-3 fatty acids ( 57 ).

Summary: Nuts contain a host of brain-boosting nutrients, including vitamin E, healthy fats and plant compounds.

9. Oranges

You can get all the vitamin C you need in a day by eating one medium orange ( 58 ).

Doing so is important for brain health, since vitamin C is a key factor in preventing mental decline ( 59 ).

Eating sufficient amounts of vitamin C-rich foods can protect against age-related mental decline and Alzheimer's disease, according to a 2014 review article ( 60 ).

Vitamin C is a powerful antioxidant that helps fight off the free radicals that can damage brain cells. Plus, vitamin C supports brain health as you age ( 61 ).

You can also get excellent amounts of vitamin C from bell peppers, guava, kiwi, tomatoes and strawberries ( 62 ).

Summary: Oranges and other foods that are high in vitamin C can help defend your brain against damage from free radicals.

10. Eggs

Eggs are a good source of several nutrients tied to brain health, including vitamins B6 and B12, folate and choline ( 63 ).

Choline is an important micronutrient that your body uses to create acetylcholine, a neurotransmitter that helps regulate mood and memory ( 64 , 65 ).

Two studies found that higher intakes of choline were linked to better memory and mental function ( 66 , 67 ).

Nevertheless, many people don't get enough choline in their diet.

Eating eggs is an easy way to get choline, given that egg yolks are among the most concentrated sources of this nutrient.

Adequate intake of choline is 425 mg per day for most women and 550 mg per day for men, with just a single egg yolk containing 112 mg ( 64 ).

Furthermore, the B vitamins have several roles in brain health.

To start, they may help slow the progression of mental decline in the elderly ( 68 ).

Also, being deficient in two types of B vitamins—folate and B12—has been linked to depression ( 69 ).

Folate deficiency is common in elderly people with dementia, and studies show that folic acid supplements can help minimize age-related mental decline ( 70 , 71 ).

B12 is also involved in synthesizing brain chemicals and regulating sugar levels in the brain ( 69 ).

It's worth noting that there's very little direct research on the link between eating eggs and brain health. However, there is research to support the brain-boosting benefits of the nutrients found in eggs.

Summary: Eggs are a rich source of several B vitamins and choline, which are important for proper brain functioning and development, as well as regulating mood.

11. Green Tea

As is the case with coffee, the caffeine in green tea boosts brain function.

In fact, it has been found to improve alertness, performance, memory and focus ( 72 ).

But green tea also has other components that make it a brain-healthy beverage.

One of them is L-theanine, an amino acid that can cross the blood-brain barrier and increase the activity of the neurotransmitter GABA, which helps reduce anxiety and makes you feel more relaxed ( 73 , 74 , 75 ).

L-theanine also increases the frequency of alpha waves in the brain, which helps you relax without making you feel tired ( 76 ).

One review found that the L-theanine in green tea can help you relax by counteracting the stimulating effects of caffeine ( 72 ).

It's also rich in polyphenols and antioxidants that may protect the brain from mental decline and reduce the risk of Alzheimer's and Parkinson's ( 77 , 78 ).

Plus, green tea has been found to improve memory ( 79 ).

Summary: Green tea is an excellent beverage to support your brain. Its caffeine content boosts alertness, while its antioxidants protect the brain and L-theanine helps you relax.

The Bottom Line

Many foods can help keep your brain healthy.

Some foods, such as the fruits and vegetables in this list, as well as tea and coffee, have antioxidants that help protect your brain from damage.

Others, such as nuts and eggs, contain nutrients that support memory and brain development.

You can help support your brain health and boost your alertness, memory and mood by strategically including these foods in your diet.

Reposted with permission from our media associate Authority Nutrition .

19 May 2017. Prince Charles: It's Time to Solve the 'Human Disaster' of Plastics in the World's Oceans

Britain's Prince Charles is lending his clout to a $2 million competition to stop the 8 million tonnes of plastics entering our oceans each year.

The Prince of Wales has teamed up with Dame Ellen MacArthur and philanthropist Wendy Schmidt to launch the New Plastics Economy Innovation Prize to encourage the world's brightest minds to come up with ideas to end marine litter—an issue described by Charles as an "escalating ecological and human disaster."


The competition has two categories:

1. The $1 million Circular Design Challenge calls for new designs that avoid the generation of small-format plastic packaging waste, such as plastic wrappers, straws and coffee cup lids that are almost never recycled and end up clogging the environment.

2. The $1 million Circular Materials Challenge seeks ways to make all plastic packaging recyclable. For instance, food packaging can be made different materials fused together, making it hard to recycle. The challenge invites innovators to find alternative materials that could be recycled or industrially composted.

Prince Charles has long been outspoken about environmental issues and has been campaigning to end ocean trash for years.

"I was horrified to learn that, according to recent research, we collectively allow as much as 8 million tonnes of plastic to enter the oceans every year," Charles said at a conference in Washington, DC on Thursday.

"Today, almost half of all marine mammals now have plastic in their gut and I know I am not the only person haunted by the tragic images of seabirds, particularly albatrosses, that have been found dead, washed up on beaches after mistaking a piece of plastic for a meal," he added.

"The fact that a recent study estimates that by 2025 there will be one ton of plastic for every three tonnes of fish in the sea is not what I call encouraging!"

He pointed out that plastic pollution is a problem that can actually be solved.

"Unlike so many challenges that now confront us, there is a solution readily to hand and, speaking as a grandfather with a new grandchild due to appear in this world in a month's time, I think we probably owe it to everyone else's grandchildren to grasp that solution," he said.

19 May 2017. Trump's Koch-Funded Appointees Continue Ruthless Attack on Clean Energy Growth

By Elliott Negin

When The Washington Post reported earlier this month that President Trump appointed Daniel Simmons to run the Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy at the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE), the paper called him a "conservative scholar."

Conservative scholar? "Fossil fuel industry propagandist" would have been more accurate.


A veteran of Charles and David Koch's climate science denier network, Simmons has spent much of his career disparaging clean energy. His most recent job was at the Institute for Energy Research (IER), where he served as the think tank's vice president for policy. Prior to joining IER, he was the Natural Resources Task Force director for the American Legislative Exchange Council, a corporation-funded lobby group that, like IER, has been trying to repeal state standards that require electric utilities to use more renewable energy. And before that, he was a research fellow at the libertarian Mercatus Center at George Mason University.

All three organizations have received substantial funding from the Koch brothers, owners of the coal, oil and gas conglomerate Koch Industries, who have spent more than $100 million over the last two decades on dozens of think tanks and advocacy groups to spread climate disinformation.

IER and its advocacy arm, the American Energy Alliance (AEA), are particularly indebted to the Kochs for both funding and staffing. Between 2010 and 2014, they received more than $5 million from Koch-controlled funds. And, like Simmons, top IER-AEA officials are well-entrenched members of the Koch network. IER founder and CEO Robert L. Bradley, Jr., for example, is an adjunct scholar at the Koch-founded and funded Cato Institute and the Koch-funded Competitive Enterprise Institute. He also has been a featured speaker at the Koch-funded Heartland Institute's annual climate science-bashing conference. IER-AEA President Thomas Pyle, meanwhile, is a former lobbyist for Koch Industries and the National Petrochemical and Refiners Association. Pyle oversaw the Trump Energy Department transition team, which included Simmons and Travis Fisher, an IER economist who also is now on the DOE staff.

Given Simmons' resume, it's no surprise that he belittles efforts to address global warming, disingenuously asserting that the "economic damages" of curbing carbon emissions "would be greater than the damage caused by a warming world ." Never mind that if we continue to burn carbon at the same rate, U.S. property losses by 2050 from sea level rise alone would be astronomical, ranging from $66 billion to $106 billion.

Predictably, Simmons also is a staunch opponent of federal support for wind and solar power. He argues that the "government should get out of the business of betting taxpayer dollars on energy projects," conveniently ignoring the fact that fossil fuels themselves are heavily subsidized. According to a new analysis by Management Information Services for the Nuclear Energy Institute, fossil fuels have received $666 billion (in 2015 dollars) in federal incentives since 1950, four times what renewable energy sources, including wind, solar, biofuels and biomass, have received. More than 80 percent of that fossil fuel support went to the oil and gas industry, which, according to a 2011 study by DBL Investors, has been receiving an average of $4.86 billion (in 2010 dollars) in federal subsidies every year since 1918.

Perry's Anti-Renewables Study

Simmons will serve as acting assistant secretary for the Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy until the Senate confirms someone for the post. He will then settle in as the office's principal deputy assistant secretary. While it's too early to find his fingerprints on anything, his former IER colleague, Travis Fisher, has already raised some concerns. Energy Sec. Rick Perry , who also has received generous contributions from the Kochs over the years, tapped Fisher to conduct a study to assess if federal support for renewable energy threatens baseload power generators— nuclear and coal plants—and undermines electricity grid reliability.

Seven members of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee have questioned the rationale for the study. In a letter to Perry, they complained that the "study, as you have framed it, appears to be intended to blame wind and solar power for the financial difficulties facing coal and nuclear electric generators" and criticized the fact that Fisher, who is clearly biased against renewables, was tasked with leading the study. Historically low natural gas prices are largely responsible for recent nuclear and coal plant closures, the senators pointed out, and several recent studies have found that wind and solar power facilities strengthen grid reliability.

The irony here, of course, is Texas—where Perry served as governor from 2000 until 2015—is the nation's leading state for wind energy. Lone Star wind turbines generate enough electricity to power seven million average U.S. households and provide more than 24,000 jobs. On top of that, 10,000 Texans work in the solar industry and another 70,000 work in the energy efficiency field. By comparison, the coal industry employs only 50,000 workers nationwide.

Regardless, Perry likely plans to use Fisher's grid reliability study as a pretext for rolling back incentives for wind and solar and boosting coal, one of President Trump's campaign promises. Likewise, the study could give the Trump administration ammunition to attack state standards requiring utilities to increase their use of renewables.

Clean Energy Progress at the State Level

States are where the action is—and likely will continue to be—given the Trump administration's aversion to renewable energy and years of gridlock on Capitol Hill.

"There's a lot of clean energy momentum across the country, including in states where you might not expect it," said John Rogers, a senior energy analyst at the Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS) and lead author of a recent report rating state-by-state progress.

"The federal government has been playing an important role in encouraging renewable energy, efficiency and vehicle electrification—at least until recently—but we found that the states that have shown leadership are already reaping economic and environmental benefits, including new jobs, cleaner air and lower public health risks."

Indeed, the growth of clean energy across the country has been nothing short of stupendous. Wind power generation, for example, increased more than tenfold over the past decade, according to the UCS report, while its cost dropped by two-thirds over the last six years. Wind farms in 41 states now provide enough electricity to power more than 20 million average U.S. households. Solar power capacity, meanwhile, has jumped more than 900 percent since 2011, while the cost of residential solar electric power fell by more than 50 percent since 2009 and large-scale solar costs declined even more.

The public is, by and large, on board. A new Pew Research Center poll found that 83 percent of Americans say expanding the use of renewable energy is a "top" or "important" national priority. Further, 54 percent of the survey respondents agree that "government regulations are necessary to encourage businesses and consumers to rely more on renewable energy sources."

Renewable energy's remarkable track record has encouraged a number of states to up the ante . Just a few years ago, ambitious states set a goal of generating 25 percent to 30 percent of their electricity from renewable energy. Today, six of the 29 states with renewable energy standards are aiming to generate 50 percent or more of their electricity from wind, solar and other clean sources.

That's the good news. The bad news is Koch surrogates have been targeting these state standards for years, and now two former IER staff members—not to mention their new boss—are in a position to do something about them. Certainly it would be the height of hypocrisy for an administration that extols states' rights to try to scuttle state renewable energy standards, but for the Trump administration, hypocrisy is the norm. With so much clean energy momentum in blue and red states alike, the open question is just how much damage Trump's DOE appointees will be able to do.

Elliott Negin is a s enior writer at the Union of Concerned Scientists .

19 May 2017. Koch-Funded 'Inconvenient Energy Fact' Gets It All Wrong

Politico's Morning Energy reported Wednesday that the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has assigned 110 staffers to meet a court-ordered July 1 deadline to produce a study of the agency's impact on coal jobs.


This many staff on the job may be overkill, particularly since a recent Columbia Center on Global Energy Policy report already quantified the impact of EPA regulations on coal.

While President Trump and Scott Pruitt have always been eager to blame the EPA for the fall of coal, the folks at Columbia Center found regulations for a scant 3.5 percent of the industry's decline. The biggest winner in the so-called War on Coal has been, as we and others have said, natural gas. Per the Columbia Center report, natural gas is responsible for half of the coal industry's decline, while reduced demand (thanks to energy efficiency) is responsible for a quarter and renewables 18 percent.

We're guessing these findings are not what the Trump administration wants to hear, so it will be interesting to see how the EPA report lines up with Columbia Center's.

Let's take a look at what stats the oil and gas lobby are propping up. A new post and graphic from the Koch-funded American Enterprise Institute (AEI) purports to prove that it takes 79 solar workers to produce the same amount of energy as one coal employee (or two natural gas workers). In other words, AEI is trying to argue that fossil fuels are better because they provide less employment—not quite as silly as it may seem in the context of Trump's incessant "coal jobs" drumbeat.

Before you get too excited about slamming AEI and praising solar's 80x job creation benefit over coal, remember the parable of the broken window . You can break windows and hire people to fix them, but that doesn't really grow the economy since that money could have been spent on anything else without having destroyed the windows. Solar is certainly creating lots of jobs, but that doesn't mean you should buy into AEI's framing. Jobs don't exist just for their own sake, it's the value they create over the long term that really matters to the economy.

That's not to say that AEI is right in its criticism (and no, we don't think solar jobs are a broken window-type issue). What's more, even if you were to accept AEI's premise, it didn't even get the numbers right. Peter O'Connor at the Union of Concerned Scientists checked the math and found AEI's figures to be wrong by roughly half (so only 35-50 solar workers to one coal job, instead of 79).

But there's an even bigger problem with AEI's comparison. A solar worker installs a solar panel that will then produce power for decades, whereas coal labor is measured on an annual basis. Factoring in this crucial distinction cuts the figure down considerably. By O'Connor's rough estimate, it's actually only two solar jobs per coal job.

There's more! O'Connor continues by pointing out that because of the incredibly risky nature of coal jobs and the fact that even unsubsidized solar is now cheaper than coal, solar is making a more efficient use of materials and labor, which is a more economically valid metric.

So while the Trump administration seems to be intent on going back to a time when coal was the undisputed king, the data clearly shows that there's no coming back for the industry.

We'd suggest Republicans update their talking points ASAP to reflect this new reality, but given the stream of highly concerning leaks that have been Russian out of the White House, we'll " let this go. " (At least for now…)

19 May 2017. 'Fossil Fuels Have Lost.' The Problem Is Trump Doesn't Know It Yet.

By Andy Rowell

"Fossil fuels have lost," argued Eddie O'Connor, chief executive of Ireland's Mainstream Renewable Power company, before adding, "The rest of the world just doesn't know it yet."

O'Connor was speaking to the influential business newspaper the Financial Times , in a must-read 4,000 word article about the rapid energy transition that is taking place right now from cars to power plants, from solar roofs to wind turbines, affecting how we drive and power our homes and industry.


Change is coming much faster than people think, said the article, The Big Green Bang: how renewable energy became unstoppable.

As the paper stated:

"After years of hype and false starts, the shift to clean power has begun to accelerate at a pace that has taken the most experienced experts by surprise. Even leaders in the oil and gas sector have been forced to confront an existential question: Will the 21st century be the last one for fossil fuels?"

As the old saying goes, the stone age didn't end due to the lack of stones, and the hydrocarbon age will not end because we ran out of oil. It will end due to concerns over climate change and the fact that fossil fuels could not compete against cheaper renewables .

Earlier this week, I blogged on a new Stanford University report which warned, "We are on the cusp of the fastest, deepest, most consequential disruption of transportation in history."

I noted:

"Within ten years, we may witness a radical technological shake up in the way we drive as people switch from petrol and diesel engines to self-drive electric vehicles ... And as people switch in droves to electric, the internal combustion engine could soon be consigned to the history books."

In response, some people scoffed at the Stanford report and the "hype" of self-drive cars. But you cannot question the growth in electric vehicles, driven by the radically reducing costs of batteries, which have halved in the last four years: As the FT noted, "Sales of plug-in electric vehicles last year were 42 per cent higher than in 2015, growing eight times faster than the overall market."

Big Oil is worried, noted the FT:

"These advances have become too significant for the oil and gas industry to ignore. In the first three months of this year, the heads of some of the world's largest oil companies have spoken of a 'global transformation' (Saudi Aramco) that is 'unstoppable' (Royal Dutch Shell) and 'reshaping the energy industry' (Statoil). Isabelle Kocher, chief executive of French power and gas group Engie, calls it a new 'industrial revolution' that will 'bring about a profound change in the way we behave.'"

After many false starts and false promises, and attempts at greenwashing, notably BP's "beyond petroleum" image makeover at the start of the century, the paper noted that "some fossil fuel companies are starting to put serious money into green energy," before warning, "But oil and gas companies may need to act faster if the ambitious plans of other large energy companies succeed."

The business paper makes an interesting point in that many people do not realize the pace of the coming clean energy transition, especially in "countries where the existence of climate change is still so widely contested." And of course, one of those countries is the U.S.

Veteran investor Jeremy Grantham, co-founder of Boston asset manager GMO, argued, "I think it's happening much faster than most well-educated business people in America understand."

It is happening faster than the climate denier , Donald Trump understands too. Apparently the president is considering a 70 percent cut to the Department of Energy's renewable energy office.

He may try and hold back the green energy tide, but sooner rather than later he will find himself swimming out of his depth. "Fossil fuels have lost," as Eddie O'Connor said. The problem is that Trump doesn't know it yet.

19 May 2017. World’s Commitment to Paris Agreement Remains Strong as Bonn Climate Talks End

Two weeks of climate talks in Bonn, Germany wrapped up Thursday with a reminder from Prime Minister Frank Bainimarama of Fiji, whose nation will lead COP23 this fall, that "no-one, no matter who they are or where they live, will ultimately escape the impact of climate change ."


Bloomberg reported that the possibility of the U.S. pulling out of the Paris agreement galvanized delegates to work together at the "unusually cooperative" talks. Meanwhile, Reuters reported that the U.S. delegation in Bonn "quietly" worked to promote long-term U.S. climate interests as they "walked a fine line" between unclear policies from Washington and participating in the talks with allies.

"The uncertainty swirling around the United States' participation in the Paris agreement did not slow progress in Bonn," Paula Caballero, global director of the Climate Program at World Resources Institute , said.

"If anything, countries were emboldened to move forward with more determination and show that international climate action will not be swayed by the shifting political winds of any one country."

The White House has suggested Trump will make a decision on the Paris agreement following the G-7 summit at the end of this month.

"The next opportunity to demonstrate global leadership on climate change is the G7 Summit next week," Caballero continued.

"Coming on the heels of the positive tone set in Bonn and a huge outpouring of support for the Paris agreement from businesses, cities and governments, there is no question that climate change will be the hot topic for the G7 leaders to grapple with."

For a deeper dive:

Bloomberg , Climate Home , Reuters , BBC , InsideClimate News

For more climate change and clean energy news, you can follow Climate Nexus on Twitter and Facebook , and sign up for daily Hot News .

19 May 2017. The Planet Is on Course to Breach Warming Limit of 1.5°C Within 10 years, Scientists Warn

By Tim Radford

Australian scientists have warned that planetary average temperatures could breach the internationally agreed target barrier of a 1.5°C rise as early as 2026.


Although global warming is driven by human behavior—and in particular the prodigal burning of fossil fuels at an ever-accelerating rate to dump ever-greater quantities of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere —it is also influenced by natural climate rhythms.

And, said scientists from Australia's Centre of Excellence for Climate System Science, one of these is a slow-moving oceanic and atmospheric cycle called the Interdecadal Pacific Oscillation (IPO), which blows hot and cold and then hot again, every decade or so.

The latest hot phase could be about to push the global thermometer beyond the ideal limit set by the UN climate conference in Paris in 2015. They wrote in Geophysical Research Letters that since 1999 the IPO has been perhaps keeping the world cooler than it might have been, as the rate of increase in global warming appeared to slow between 1998 and 2012.

Global records

But the last three years have all breached successive global temperature records , and they think this could mean that the IPO is beginning to have a positive effect.

"Even if the IPO remains in negative phase, our research shows we will still likely see global temperatures break through the 1.5°C guardrail by 2031," said Ben Henley of the University of Melbourne, who led the study.

"If the world is to have any hope of meeting the Paris targets, governments will need to pursue policies that not only reduce emissions but remove carbon dioxide from the atmosphere," Henley emphasized. "Should we overshoot the 1.5°C limit, we must still aim to bring global temperatures back down and stabilize them at that level or lower."

Carbon dioxide levels for most of human history oscillated at around 280 parts per million. Since the beginning of the Industrial Revolution, they have risen inexorably, to reach 400ppm.

Global average temperatures have crept up to almost 1°C higher than the historic levels. In fact, the Paris Agreement talked of aiming to keep them "well below 2°C," but 1.5°C has always been an ideal limit.

Henley and his co-author are not the only scientists to cast doubt on the world's capacity to achieve the Paris promise. Two of the giants of climate science pointed out within a month of the historic decision that current greenhouse gas emissions would take the world to the 2°C target very swiftly.

Their pessimism has been echoed by British scientists who pointed out that there was already enough carbon dioxide in the atmosphere to breach the 1.5°C guardrail at least for temperatures over land (which accounts for only about 30 percent of the planet). Other studies have warned that the world will overshoot the 1.5°C ideal , although it might return to this peak by 2100.

So although the latest warning from Australia sounds ominous, it is consistent with other thinking. The nations that signed up to the Paris accord have—mostly—made declarations of their plans to reduce emissions, but many of these have yet to be implemented and in any case are widely understood to be insufficient.

Acceleration in warming

Nor is the latest study without challenge. At least one analysis points out that it starts with the assumption that humankind takes little or no action to reduce emissions. And the Paris target of containment to a 1.5°C rise was intended to be an average over a 20- to 30-year period, rather than a barrier not to be breached in any one year.

So the Melbourne study could best be considered as yet another reminder of the urgency of international action.

"Although the earth has continued to warm during the temporary slowdown since around 2000, the reduced rate of warming in that period may have lulled us into a false sense of security," said Henley. "The positive phase of the IPO will likely correct this slowdown. If so, we can expect an acceleration in global warming in the coming decades.

"Policymakers should be aware of just how quickly we are approaching 1.5°C. The task of reducing emissions is very urgent indeed."

Reposted with permission from Climate News Network .

19 May 2017. 23 California Salmon Species Likely to Go Extinct Within 100 Years

California's plethora of salmon and trout species are dwindling at a rapid rate . A new study found that of the 31 genetically distinct kinds of salmon and trout on the West Coast, 23 will likely go extinct within a hundred years.

The study is a follow up to a 2008 report that drew the same conclusions, however, the outlook wasn't as grim almost 10 years ago. The old assessment gave a time period of 50 years for five of the species, the new one says now 14 species are likely to be lost within that timeframe.


Researchers from the University of California Davis and conservation group California Trout said the main culprits are climate change , dams and agriculture.

"As we began drafting the 2017 report, we realized that the new information and increasingly obvious impacts of climate change required us to rethink the metrics used in the 2008 report to evaluate status [of each species]," Peter Moyle, co-author of the new report, told NPR .

Salmon and trout need cool, clean water to thrive and with increasingly warming temperatures and pollution in the ocean, California's coasts may become uninhabitable. In fact, some locations may dry up altogether, making it impossible for the fish to trace back to their nesting grounds.

Agriculture is also a big driver because fertilizers and pesticides from major crops seep into the waterways, changing the chemical makeup and spawning harmful algae blooms . Irrigation for crops also takes water from rivers and other freshwater sources, furthering habitat loss.

Some of the species in jeopardy are the prized Chinook populations, of which, six out of eight are in trouble. Coho salmon are also critically threatened, with as few as 5,000 fish returning to their nesting grounds to fertilize eggs.

The report states there is still time to mitigate the effects on these fish species by restoring riverside floodplains, spring-fed creeks and coastal marshes. Another method would be removing dams so fish can swim upstream or making smarter agricultural decisions.

"We do still have time," said California Trout's Executive Director Curtis Knight. "We are optimistic that with some effort, we can have a future that involves these fish."

19 May 2017. 6 Banks Behind the Mountain Valley Pipeline

Residents of Virginia and West Virginia opened up a new front Thursday in their fight to stop the 301-mile Mountain Valley Pipeline : targeting the major U.S. "main street" banks on tap to finance the fracked-gas project's $3.5 billion price tag.


Landowners along the pipeline route are calling on customers to move their money out of the top six U.S. banks behind the pipeline—led by Bank of America and Wells Fargo. The banks are identified in a new analysis released today by Oil Change International that examines how the pipeline will be financed.

The landowner and citizens' groups Bold Appalachia and Protect Our Water, Heritage, Rights (POWHR) launched Thursday's call to action and are planning an upcoming "Defund MVP" week of action in Virginia and West Virginia from June 19 to June 23.

"Now is the time to pull out our pocketbooks, put our money where our mouth is and divest from the banks financing this pipeline," said Carolyn Reilly, a regional pipeline fighter with Bold Alliance whose farm is in the path of the proposed pipeline in Rocky Mount, Virginia.

"The Mountain Valley Pipeline is focused solely on making money, setting private financial interest as the top priority. As farmers and landowners, we say 'no' to a greedy system that supports eminent domain for private gain while threatening our clean water and land."

The "Defund MVP" campaign joins a growing movement of communities, tribes and cities across North America that are targeting the financing behind dirty pipeline projects, from Dakota Access to Keystone XL , and putting increasing pressure on major banks to move money flows away from risky fossil fuel projects that threaten the climate and communities.

The Oil Change analysis draws a direct link between the banks providing corporate-level financing to pipeline company EQT Midstream Partners (EQM) and the money that will fuel the Mountain Valley Pipeline. EQM, the main driver of the project and the largest investor in it, plans to rely on corporate-level financing, rather than direct loans, to fund the pipeline.

"Our analysis shows that Bank of America and Wells Fargo are signed up to funnel the most money into this polluting pipeline," said Lorne Stockman, a senior research analyst at Oil Change International who co-authored the briefing. "These same banks are embroiled in a backlash over their funding for the Dakota Access Pipeline and major tar sands pipelines. The Mountain Valley Pipeline is another black eye. The customer backlash will not let up unless banks heed the call to defund dirty pipelines."

Bank of America is providing more than $141 million in funding to EQM while Wells Fargo is the lead arranger of the company's credit facility. PNC, SunTrust, Bank of the West (via parent company BNP Paribas) and U.S. Bank are also significant investors in EQM's key sources of pipeline finance. While U.S. Bank recently pledged to end project-level loans for oil and gas pipelines, it remains a key corporate-level financer of EQM and several other pipeline companies.

The Oil Change briefing also notes that two banks with significant customer bases across Virginia—Union Bank & Trust and BB&T—are providing a comparatively small but direct loan to the Mountain Valley Pipeline through Roanoke-based RGC Midstream.

"The Mountain Valley Pipeline route is going through the middle of my property, Doe Creek Farm," said Georgia Haverty of Giles County, Virginia. "There are four businesses that would be directly and adversely affected. I will never put a cent of any of my businesses in BB&T, Bank of America, Wells Fargo or Union Bank & Trust. I will also post signs calling out all of these banks for the thousands of visitors and customers who visit each year and who love this land. They need to know."

The Mountain Valley Pipeline would open up a new spigot to increase the flow of gas from fracking operations in the Appalachian Basin. It threatens communities' drinking water , pristine forests, farms and historic places along the route from northwestern West Virginia to south central Virginia. A previous Oil Change analysis showed the project would be responsible for close to 90 million metric tons of greenhouse gas emissions annually, equivalent to 26 coal plants or 19 million vehicles on the road.

18 May 2017. LEGO Smashes 100% Renewable Energy Goal

The LEGO group announced it reached its goal of balancing 100 percent of its energy use with renewable sources.

The beloved toymaker's ambitious feat was achieved three years early thanks to its 25 percent stake in the massive, 258-megawatt Burbo Bank Extension offshore wind farm that just opened Wednesday in the UK's Liverpool Bay.


"We work to leave a positive impact on the planet and I am truly excited about the inauguration of the Burbo Bank Extension wind farm," said Bali Padda, CEO of the LEGO Group.

"This development means we have now reached the 100 percent renewable energy milestone three years ahead of target. Together with our partners, we intend to continue investing in renewable energy to help create a better future for the builders of tomorrow."

As CleanTechnica reported, the wind farm is a joint venture between DONG Energy, PKA and KIRKBI A/S—the parent company of the LEGO Group. Because of that, LEGO was able to reach its 100 percent renewable energy goal after only four years and DKK 6 billion worth of investment into two offshore wind farms.

According to an announcement , the LEGO Group has supported the development of more than 160 megawatts of renewable energy since 2012. Total output from its investments in renewables now exceeds the energy consumed at all LEGO factories, stores and offices globally, it said.

To celebrate the milestone, the Danish company set a Guinness World Record by building the largest ever LEGO brick wind turbine—a seven and a half meter tall structure made from 146,000 bricks. LEGO even enlisted its mascot, Batman, to receive the recognition at a ceremony in Liverpool.

"We see children as our role models and as we take action in reducing our environmental impact as a company, we will also continue to work to inspire children around the world by engaging them in environmental and social issues," Padda said.