The Eco News Roundup brings stories and commentary about issues related to climate change, renewable energy and the environment.
COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) — Geologists in Ohio have for the first time linked earthquakes in a geologic formation deep under the Appalachians to hydraulic fracturing, leading the state to issue new permit conditions Friday in certain areas that are among the nation’s strictest.
A state investigation of five small tremors last month in the Youngstown area, in the Appalachian foothills, found the injection of sand and water that accompanies hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, in the Utica Shale may have increased pressure on a small, unknown fault, said State Oil & Gas Chief Rick Simmers. He called the link “probable.”
While earlier studies had linked earthquakes in the same region to deep-injection wells used for disposal of fracking wastewater, this marks the first time tremors in the region have been tied directly to fracking, Simmers said. The five seismic events in March couldn’t be easily felt by people.
The odds are increasing that an El Niño is in the works for 2014—and recent forecasts show it might be a big one.
As we learned from Chris Farley, El Niños can boost the odds of extreme weather (droughts, typhoons, heat waves) across much of the planet. But the most important thing about El Niño is that it is predictable, sometimes six months to a year in advance.
That’s an incredibly powerful tool, especially if you are one of the billions who live where El Niño tends to hit hardest—Asia and the Americas. If current forecasts stay on track, El Niño might end up being the biggest global weather story of 2014.
Academics and campaigners were already looking at food as a way to better connect with public on climate change when the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) released its finding on declining crop yields.
The report warned: “All aspects of food security are potentially affected by climate change.” It said negative impacts on yields would become more likely in the 2030s.
Catastrophic climate change can be averted without sacrificing living standards, according to a landmark UN report published on Sunday. It concludes the transformation required to a world of clean energy and the ditching of dirty fossil fuels is eminently affordable.
The authoritative report, produced by 1250 international experts and approved by 194 governments, dismisses fears that slashing carbon emissions would wreck the world economy. It is the final part of a definitive trilogy that has already shown that climate change is “unequivocally” caused by humans and that, unchecked, it poses a grave threat to people and could lead to lead to wars and mass migration.
Diverting hundred of billions of dollars from fossil fuels into renewable energy and cutting energy waste would shave just 0.06% off expected annual economic growth rates of 1.3%-3%, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report concluded. Furthermore, the analysis did not include the benefits of cutting greenhouse gas emissions, which could outweigh the costs. The benefits include reducing air pollution, which plagues China and recently hit the UK, and improved energy security, which is currently at risk in eastern Europe after the actions of major gas-producer Russia in Ukraine.
The billion-dollar storm is the new normal. Eight of the 10 costliest hurricanes in U.S. history have occurred in the past decade, adjusting for inflation, at a staggering toll of more than $200 billion in losses. Sea level rise along the eastern seaboard is happening at the fastest rate in the world. Disaster experts have plenty of good ideas for ways to prepare for the unfolding crisis, but it’s hard to find legislators willing to think long-term. Welcome to disaster politics in the 21st century.
Lawmakers continually prepare for the previous disaster. Witness the overhaul of nuclear power regulation after Three Mile Island or overwhelming reforms to counterterrorism after Sept. 11, 2001. Similarly, it was only in the wake of Hurricane Katrina that lawmakers began to discuss serious reforms to the bankrupt National Flood Insurance Program, a government-backed system created in 1968 for homeowners living in flood-prone areas. It took until the summer of 2012 for Congress to pass the bipartisan Biggert-Waters Flood Insurance Reform Act, a bill aimed at restoring the NFIP to solid financial health. Just a few months later Hurricane Sandy, with its tens of thousands of under-insured victims, made Biggert-Waters look like visionary legislation.
Last week, however, lawmakers reversed themselves—and now the future of flood insurance in America is again uncertain.
A team of researchers lead by Florida State University have found new evidence that permafrost thawing is releasing large quantities of greenhouse gases into the atmosphere via plants, which could accelerate warming trends. The research is featured in the newest edition of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
“We’ve known for a while now that permafrost is thawing,” said Suzanne Hodgkins, the lead author on the paper and a doctoral student in chemical oceanography at Florida State. “But what we’ve found is that the associated changes in plant community composition in the polar regions could lead to way more carbon being released into the atmosphere as methane.”
An analysis of temperature data since 1500 all but rules out the possibility that global warming in the industrial era is just a natural fluctuation in the earth’s climate, according to a new study by McGill University physics professor Shaun Lovejoy. The study, published online April 6 in the journal Climate Dynamics, represents a new approach to the question of whether global warming in the industrial era has been caused largely by man-made emissions from the burning of fossil fuels. Rather than using complex computer models to estimate the effects of greenhouse-gas emissions, Lovejoy examines historical data to assess the competing hypothesis: that warming over the past century is due to natural long-term variations in temperature.
“This study will be a blow to any remaining climate-change deniers,” Lovejoy says. “Their two most convincing arguments – that the warming is natural in origin, and that the computer models are wrong – are either directly contradicted by this analysis, or simply do not apply to it.”
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