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Sunday, December 30, 2012

Welcome to Saudi Albany?

Most observers would agree, though, that changes in regulation do not come from objective scientific studies. (Both sides, after all, can flood any government hearing with experts and impressive-looking scientific reports.) Regulations are determined, in large part, by politics. And the politics of fracking are changing and are very likely to change drastically in coming years. As examples from the last century suggest, the sudden discovery of oil and gas can transform an entire economy and regulatory system to serve the industry’s interests. Economists call this the resource curse — the perverse process in which a valuable discovery like oil, gas, diamonds or gold ends up enriching a few at the cost of impoverishing most of the population. At its worst, the resource curse leads to deeply corrupt regimes like those in Iraq, Iran, Myanmar and Libya. At its mildest, this can create one-industry economies in which there is little innovation and even less resistance to the whims of a handful of powerful interests. Many believe this already describes the oil economies of Louisiana, Texas and Oklahoma and, increasingly, North Dakota, where the fracking industry is entrenched. Politically and economically, it’s hard to argue with an industry that has helped keep the state’s unemployment rate at about 3 percent.

If there is an uneasy equilibrium, right now, between environmentally concerned citizens and pro-fracking industrial groups, what will the political balance be like in a decade? What pressures will be on state legislatures and regulators if the projections are true and the millions of workers in Pennsylvania, Ohio, West Virginia and maybe New York will owe their jobs to fracking. There will be trillions of dollars of new wealth. Will environmental and health concerns have any chance against that juggernaut?

Thursday, December 27, 2012

Will the West ever solve its water woes?

"The Colorado River provides fresh water to nearly 40 million people in seven states out west: Arizona, California, Nevada, Colorado, New Mexico, Utah and Wyoming. A sizable chunk of U.S. agriculture relies on that water — about 15 percent of the nation’s crops and 13 percent of its livestock. (Indeed, the vast majority of the river’s water is used for irrigation and agriculture.)

But there’s a problem: The Colorado River may soon no longer have enough water to satisfy the region’s needs. Thanks to rapid population growth in cities like Las Vegas and Phoenix, water demand is surging. Meanwhile, the supply of water is dropping — and could keep dropping as climate change speeds evaporation, shrinks the snow pack in the Rocky Mountains, and makes droughts more likely."

Saturday, December 22, 2012

5 Takeaways From NOAA’s New Study On Climate Change And Extreme Events

Click here to read the full article from Kelly Levin at WRI Insights

Many people are understandably perplexed at the U.S.’s recent extreme weather events like record heat waves, torrential downpours, droughts, and wildfires. A new report published by scientists from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and other institutions may finally offer some insight into climate change’s connection to the damaging and costly extreme events that are on the rise.

Numerous studies have shown that the Earth is warming rapidly, due in large part to human activities. While existing research focuses on climate change’s implications for the intensity and frequency of extreme events like storms and heat waves, due to scientific complexities, most scientists to date have tip-toed around attributing any single event to climate change.

Until now, that is. Last week, scientists from NOAA, the UK’s Met Office, and other institutions published a special report in the Bulletin of the American Meteorological Society (BAMS) that attributed a number of recent extreme events to human-induced climate change.

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

How Millions of Farmers are Advancing Agriculture For Themselves

Click here to read the full article from Jonathan Latham at Independent Science News

The world record yield for paddy rice production is not held by an agricultural research station or by a large-scale farmer from the United States, but by Sumant Kumar who has a farm of just two hectares in Darveshpura village in the state of Bihar in Northern India. His record yield of 22.4 tons per hectare, from a one-acre plot, was achieved with what is known as the System of Rice Intensification (SRI). To put his achievement in perspective, the average paddy yield worldwide is about 4 tons per hectare. Even with the use of fertilizer, average yields are usually not more than 8 tons.

Sumant Kumar’s success was not a fluke. Four of his neighbors, using SRI methods, and all for the first time, matched or exceeded the previous world record from China, 19 tons per hectare. Moreover, they used only modest amounts of inorganic fertilizer and did not need chemical crop protection.

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Forecasting Denial: Why Are TV Weathercasters Ignoring Climate Change?

It's been a busy year for TV weathercasters: July was the hottest month ever recorded in the United States, unprecedented wildfires scorched the West, the worst drought in 50 years parched two-thirds of the county. Then, in October, Hurricane Sandy slammed into New York and New Jersey. Yet the cause of much of the meteorological mayhem – global warming – was rarely mentioned on air. The reason: There's a shockingly high chance that your friendly TV weatherman is a full-blown climate denier.