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Environment

  • March 1, 2013

    How NASA Scientists Are Turning L.A. Into One Big Climate-Change Lab

    Mount Wilson fire 7

    Southern California’s Mount Wilson is a lonesome, hostile peak — prone to sudden rock falls, sometimes ringed by wildfire — that nevertheless has attracted some of the greatest minds in modern science. 

    George Ellery Hale, one of the godfathers of astrophysics, founded the Mount Wilson Observatory in 1904 and divined that sunspots were magnetic. His acolyte Edwin Hubble used a huge telescope, dragged up by mule train, to prove the universe was expanding. Even Albert Einstein made a pilgrimage in the 1930s to hobnob with the astronomers (and suffered a terrible hair day, a photo shows).


    read more: http://www.theatlanticcities.com/technology/2013/02/how-nasa-scientists-are-turning-l-one-big-climate-change-lab/4824/

  • March 1, 2013

    The activists fighting the Keystone XL pipeline are radical-and right

    XL Pipeline Protest

    The respectable center has recognized that climate change is not only real and man-made but also a genuine emergency. The scientific evidence has become too stark to indulge denial or dithering. The earth is hotter; Arctic ice is melting at a terrifying rate; staid institutions like reinsurers and the CIA are sounding dire warnings about rising seas and extreme droughts. There’s an emerging consensus that fossil fuel apologists are on the wrong side of the battle of the century. 

    But there’s also an emerging consensus-among newspaper editorial boards, respectable-centrist pundits, even the magazine Nature- that the rabble-rousing activists who have tied themselves to the White House gate and clamored for President Obama to reject the Keystone XL pipeline are picking the wrong fight. Stopping Keystone, these critics point out, wouldn’t prevent catastrophic warming. It might not even prevent the extraction from Canada’s dirty tar sands. It wouldn’t cut emissions as much as new coal regulations or clean-energy subsidies or carbon pricing. Meanwhile, approving the pipeline would create jobs and reduce our dependence on petro-dictators while signaling that Obama isn’t as radical as the tree huggers protesting outside his house.

     

    read more: http://swampland.time.com/2013/02/28/im-with-the-tree-huggers/

  • October 5, 2012

    Arctic melt opens door for big oil's next boom

    Born and raised the son of an Inupiaq Eskimo whaling captain in this small village on the coast of the Chukchi Sea, Hugh Patkotak knows the water and he knows ice.

    There are almost one hundred words for ice in the language of the Eskimos, he says. Words that describe ice floes that are flattened, thick and safe for walking; packed, soft ice which is perilous; and snow that floats on the ocean which is difficult for a wooden boat to push through in the spring.

    Patkotak, chairman of the village’s native corporation here, is also a search and rescue pilot. And he looks down on the tundra from his “bird’s eye view,” as he puts it, observing year after year as the ice begins to melt in the spring and summer and slowly returns in the autumn. And standing at the water’s edge in Wainwright in late August and staring out at the dark sea, he said this summer he has seen few of the familiar icebergs on the horizon and no floating sea ice for hundreds of miles offshore.

    “We have never seen a melt like this in our history,” Patkotak said.

    In these Alaskan waters of the High North, sea ice has melted at a record pace this summer, shattering a record set in 2007 and marking the greatest Arctic melt since scientists began monitoring it by satellite in 1979. Some scientists calculate it is the greatest melt in the history of humankind, and there is little disagreement that it poses a perilous development for the planet.

    read more:  http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/news/regions/americas/121003/arctic-melt-opens-door-big-oils-next-boom

  • October 5, 2012

    Saving the world’s fisheries

    THE WORLD’S WATERS are dangerously overfished, threatening the health and livelihood of millions across the planet.

    A new study from consulting firm California Environmental Associates, part of which appeared in the journal Science last week, estimates that “over 40 percent of fisheries have crashed or are overfished, producing economic losses in excess of $50 billion per year.” If you’ve heard more encouraging numbers before now, that’s because these new figures include estimates of what’s happening to unmonitored stocks, from which fishermen draw 80 percent of the world’s harvest, not just those stocks that authorities closely assess. One indication of fishery depletion, the report notes, is that people are spending more effort — traveling farther, sinking more hooks, staying on the water longer — to catch fewer and fewer fish. Unsurprisingly, the problem is worst in middle- and low-income countries, where regulation is more often spottily enforced or nonexistent.

    Just because many fisheries are strained, however, doesn’t mean they are beyond repair. At the root of the problem is that too many fishermen face incentives to take too many fish out of the water to secure immediate benefits. With few controls and many boats on the water, captains aren’t punished for pulling in full net after full net, but they do worry that competition will limit their ability to catch as many fish in the future. Changing those expectations to reduce overfishing in the short term can result in more fish available for catching in the long term, since fish populations would have time and space to rebound and grow. The study estimates that 64 percent of unmonitored areas could, in fact, provide a bigger harvest on a sustainable basis if properly regulated.

    The best way to do that is to give fishermen a direct stake in the long-term health of a stock. U.S. fishery managers, for example, have increasingly introduced “catch share” systems in which regulators divvy up fishing rights among local captains. This system caps the number of particular species that fishermen can catch, and it eliminates the perilous race to fish when authorities limit fishing to just particular seasons.

    read more:  http://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/saving-the-worlds-fisheries/2012/10/03/2a8e45a4-09bb-11e2-858a-5311df86ab04_story.html