Archive | May 2014

WMO: CO2 Concentrations Top 400 Parts per Million throughout Northern Hemisphere

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Carbon dioxide levels throughout the northern hemisphere hit 400 parts per million (ppm) for the first time in human history in April, an ominous threshold for climate change, the World Meteorological Organization said on Monday.

The 400 ppm level in the atmosphere, up 40 percent since wide use of fossil fuels began with the Industrial Revolution, is rapidly spreading southwards. First recorded in 2012 in the Arctic, it has since become the norm for the Arctic spring.

The WMO expects the global annual average carbon dioxide concentration to be above 400 ppm in 2015 or 2016. Rising concentrations of the heat-trapping gas raise risks of more heatwaves, droughts and rising sea levels.

“Time is running out,” WMO Secretary-General Michel Jarraud said in a statement.

“This should serve as yet another wake-up call about the constantly rising levels of greenhouse gases which are driving climate change. If we are to preserve our planet for future generations, we need urgent action to curb new emissions of these heat-trapping gases.”

Almost 200 governments have agreed to work out a deal by the end of 2015 to slow climate change as part of efforts to limit the average temperature increase to two degrees Celsius (3.6 degrees Fahrenheit) above pre-industrial times.

Temperatures have already risen about 0.8C (1.4F).

In April, the U.N.’s panel of climate experts said that greenhouse gas concentrations, led by carbon dioxide, would have to be kept below 450 ppm to give a good chance of achieving the 2C goal.

The level of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere is seasonal, since plants absorb more in the summer months, causing a peak in the spring. The northern hemisphere, with more human-related sources of the gas, has a more pronounced seasonal cycle.

Carbon dioxide remains in the atmosphere for hundreds of years. It is emitted by fossil-fueled vehicles and coal-fired factories and power plants as well as by natural activities such as breathing.

During the last 800,000 years, the level of atmospheric carbon dioxide fluctuated between 180 ppm and 280 ppm, and has probably not been above 400 ppm for millions of years, scientists say.

With the widespread burning of coal and oil during the Industrial Revolution, the concentration of carbon dioxide rose to about 290 ppm by the end of the 19th century.

That accelerated last century, with levels between 370 and 380 ppm by the year 2000.

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U.S. House Military Spending Bill Prohibits U. S. Fund Global Warming Research

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The US House of Representatives last week approved a bill that would grant Israel over $600 million of American taxpayers’ money in military aid.

The military aid package is part of the National Defense Authorization Act for 2015 adopted Thursday by members of the House, which is controlled by a pro-Israel Republican majority.

The bill includes an amendment that would bar the Department of Defense from using funds to assess climate change and its implications for national security.

The amendment, from Rep. David McKinley (R-W.Va.), passed in what was nearly a party-line vote, aims to block the U.S. from taking any significant action related to climate change or its potential consequences:

“None of the funds authorized to be appropriated or otherwise made available by this Act may be used to implement the U.S. Global Change Research Program National Climate Assessment, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s Fifth Assessment Report, the United Nation’s Agenda 21 sustainable development plan, or the May 2013 Technical Update of the Social Cost of Carbon for Regulatory Impact Analysis Under Executive Order 12866.”

Wrote McKinley in a memo to House colleagues: “This amendment will prohibit the costs of the President’s climate change policies being forced on the Department of Defense by the Obama Administration.” The memo was dated last Thursday and was obtained by The Huffington Post. Making little of the growing global climate catastrophe, McKinley’s memo sais: “The climate is obviously changing; it has always been changing. With all the unrest around the [world], why should Congress divert funds from the mission of our military and national security to support a political ideology?”

Research suggests, however, that the Department of Defense has a number of reasons to be worried about climate change. The department said in its own evaluation last year that climate change presents infrastructure challenges at home and abroad. Meanwhile, a March Pentagon report found that climate change impacts are “threat multipliers,” and that the rapid rise of global temperatures and associated extreme weather events could exacerbate issues like “poverty, environmental degradation, political instability and social tensions — conditions that can enable terrorist activity and other forms of violence.”

Reps. Henry Waxman (D-Calif.) and Bobby Rush (D-Ill.) sent a letter to colleagues on Thursday calling the McKinley measure “irresponsible.”

“Science denial will not solve the problem,” they wrote.

Source: Kate Sheppard, Huffington Post

Obama Wrongly Promotes Tourism to U.S. by Other Countries

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It’s a fact: The water levels of the earth’s oceans are rising. It’s a fact: the oceans are becoming more acidic due to rising concentrations of atmospheric carbon dioxide in the water. It is also a fact the increasing water acidity is creating intolerable conditions for many ocean species. Ecological and biological systems everywhere are likely to be severely impacted.

Sustaining life (and living) will become more difficult on Future Planet Earth. If we continue our ecologically reckless burning of fossil fuels, even at the level we burn them now, the next children to see daylight are doomed. So are the rest of them that follow.

Everyone knows people who can afford to fly to vacation trips over seas and routinely take them pollute the air and add the warming of the planet. Why shouldn’t they pay a heftier cost?

Why should those avoid taking planes trips and thus put fewer greenhouse gas into the atmosphere be rewarded for helping to preserve our climate? The tipping point – of “positive global warming feedbacks”, such as more methane releases by the increasing thawing of the permafrost region; and increasing solar radiation absorption (heating) of the Arctic ocean waters due to white snow replacement with Arctic water which it darker, more sunlight-absorbing has already been reached in several biological/physical relationships. Once those tipping points are are reached, it will be exceeding difficult to reverse the trends. Global warming could take on the characteristics U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry recently described as: “the world’s most fearsome weapon of mass destruction”, and moreover that “the science of climate change is leaping out at us like a scene from a 3D movie… It’s warning us; it’s compelling us to act” (Kerry).

Now President Obama is saying we need to attract more foreign tourists to our shores, because foreign tourists bring lots of money to spend in our country. But they don’t fly here on their own power! Flying long distances by jets burns huge quantities of fossil fuels, emitting millions of tons of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gas high in the atmosphere, where they are less likely to remain for centuries and not get sequestered back into the biosphere.

President John F. Kennedy once famously said: “Ask not what your country can do for you; ask what you can do for your country.”

Not many Americans these days must be thinking about the meaning of those words. So many Americans in particular take round-trip flights by jet to far away places, yearly, which requires the burning immense amounts of fossil fuels, especially in take-off and cruising very long distances.

The World Soccer Cup is three weeks away. The distance from Madison to Brazil World Cup is 4,612 miles. One shutters to think about how many planes will be flying to Brazil and back so their passengers can see the game in person.

But President Obama has made a case for attracting more foreign visitors and helping the sectors of our economy that cater to tourist purchases, increasingly bringing more money into the United States. “When it comes to tourism, we have a great product to sell,” Obama said in New York last week. “Nothing says ‘Made in America’ better than the Empire State Building or the Hoover Dam.”

Earlier Thursday, Obama signed a presidential memorandum giving his homeland security and commerce secretaries four months to come up with a plan to streamline the entry process and reduce wait times. He also asked the departments to work with the 15 largest U.S. airports, following steps taken by Dallas-Fort Worth and Chicago international airports to cut wait times so tourists aren’t delayed.

Obama acted two years ago to speed the processing of tourist visas for visitors from China and Brazil. On Thursday, Obama tackled the flip side of the problem: long waits for processing at U.S. airports and other ports of entry once tourists arrive. Fewer people will be discouraged from flying to the U.S. for vacation that way.

Before departing for upstate New York, Obama met with 20 travel and tourism industry CEOs and senior executives, including Arne Sorenson of Marriott International, Mark Hoplamazian of Hyatt Hotels and Roger Dow of the U.S. Travel Association.

Madison is 7,000 miles from China. Yet the Governor of Wisconsin (Scott Walker) and ones before him (Doyle) promoted visits and trade with China, as if the two were next door neighbors! The petroleum companies are laughing all the way to their Swiss bank accounts!

A prime example here in Wisconsin is Wisconsin Public Radio (WPR) and Wisconsin Public Television (WPT) are sponsoring round-trip vacations for anyone who’s willing to pay them to arrange flights to Hawaii, Ireland, the Mediterranean, and New York City this year. More trips are being planned to other exotic places, as well. In addition to those people not spending their money to help out our state’s economy, those excursions contribute to the many tons of greenhouse gases from the jet airliners flying those tourists to their destinations and back to the Badger State over the course of those flights. I have informed WPR that flying by jet is without question the worst thing individuals can do if their goal is to minimize their greenhouse gas emissions. It appears they care only about making money off these excursions and care little or not at all about the perils of a warming planet they are helping to cause by arranging these exotic trips. It’s shameful.

The next time you hop on a plane to go on an exotic vacation, or to give an important presentation at some far off land or worldwide conference, or go on a “required” business trip, or maybe just fly to the Olympics, the Super Bowl, the Rose Bowl, or maybe just go visit grandma, don’t just consider the cost of flight in dollars and cents. Please consider the “real” costs of such flights, including the substantial negative effects on our entire planet including the atmosphere of millions upon millions of similar airplanes flying all throughout the Earth every year, including the many military aircraft, as well.

Yes, those jet airplanes and propeller driven airplanes burn significant volumes of fossil fuels every day in the world, in flight, taking-off and landing, thereby adding significantly to the increasing accumulation of the gas “carbon dioxide” (CO2) and other greenhouse gases that end up in the Earth’s atmosphere, daily, thus contributing to the increasingly grave rate of global warming of the earth, including the warming and acidification of the earth’s vast oceans.

Alien Invasion More Real than Global Warming , Say Republicans on Science Committee

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The cover of the 2014 National Climate Assessment, released on May 6. “This assessment is about presenting actionable science,” said Obama adviser John Podesta after the report’s release. Under George W. Bush, the White House instructed federal agencies not to rely on the findings of the climate assessment to guide any policies, nor to use it to guide further research into climate change.

Furthermore, a current U. S. House of Representatives committee has met more times this session on looking for extraterrestrial life in outer space than it has assessing the threat of increasing climate change. Under the “leadership” of Rep. Lamar Smith (R-Texas), chairman of the House Science, Space, and Technology Committee, the committee has spent more time holding hearings on the existence of extraterrestrial life than it has examining climate science or the repercussions of global climate change.

The House and Senate have held a combined 19 hearings on space exploration during the 113th Congress, according to a report Wednesday in the National Journal. Smith’s committee alone has organized 15 of those hearings, including three that focused on discovering alien life. Meanwhile, Smith’s committee has held just two hearings dedicated to climate change.

Rep. Lamar Smith (R-Texas), chairman of the House Science, Space, and Technology Committee, has a long track record of climate change denial. And under his leadership, the committee has spent more time holding hearings on the existence of extraterrestrial life than it has examining climate science or the repercussions of global climate change.

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Republicans on the Science Committee may be open to the possibility of alien life on other planets, but Smith and many of his colleagues are much less convinced that global warming is happening on this one, or that it might be caused by humans.

Numerous sitting members of the Science committee — all Republicans — also maintain positions repeatedly rejected by the scientific community for decades. Paul Broun (Ga.), a member of the young Earth creationists, does not “believe that the Earth’s but about 9,000 years old. I believe it was created in six days as we know them.” In 2009, Smith accused scientists of advancing false claims of man-made global warming. And Rep. James Sensenbrenner (Wisc.) has called climate change a “massive international scientific fraud” and evidence of “scientific fascism.”

Congressional Energy Bill Stalls After Keystone XL Tar-Sands Crude Oil Pipeline Added

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Pro fossil fuel burning moguls attempted to force approval of the Keystone XL pipeline in the U.S. Senate last week, by attaching a series of needed energy efficiency amendments to the bill. But those efforts stalled when Democratic leader Harry Reid disagreed with the pairing attempt, saying the Keystone XL pipeline ought to be a separate vote by itself.

While the disagreement leaves the nation’s energy efficiency bill in limbo, approving Keystone XL would open the floodgates of climate-killing tar sands crude flowing through the U.S. to the Gulf of Mexico, ensuring more disastrous oil spills, like the one that occurred in Kalamazoo, MI, two years ago, which remains a problem to this day. The Keystone XL project will threaten sources of drinking water for millions, disrupt wildlife, and increase rates of cancer and other health problems in Canada and in refinery communities here in the United States – all for the sake of selling the oil on the open market.

We humans just can’t seem to stop burning up all those buried trees from way back in the carboniferous age, in the form of coal, and the remains of ancient plankton, in the form of oil and gas. If we could, we’d be home free climate wise. Instead, we’re dumping carbon dioxide into the atmosphere at a rate the Earth hasn’t seen since the great climate catastrophes of the past, the ones that led to mass extinctions. We just can’t seem to break our addiction to the kinds of fuel that will bring back a climate last seen by the dinosaurs, a climate that will drown our coastal cities and wreak havoc on the environment and our ability to feed ourselves. All the while, the glorious sun pours immaculate free energy down upon us, more than we will ever need. Why can’t we summon the ingenuity and courage of the generations that came before us? The dinosaurs never saw that asteroid coming. What’s our excuse?

Please click on “About this Blog” for my solution to this worldwide oil burning madness. As sung in the song “Fly Like an Eagle” (by the Steve Miller Band), “Time keeps on slipping, slipping, slipping, into the future”. Those in the know say we can’t wait much longer, or it will be TOO LATE. Then everyone loses, especially those who have yet to see daylight. Its amazing how selfish humans can be.

State DNR Poised to Approve Enbridge’s Crude Oil Storage Facility and Pipeline Expansion

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Enbridge Energy Co., located at 2800 E 21st St, Superior, Douglas County, Wisconsin, FID 816010580, has submitted to the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources (DNR) a permit application, including plans and specifications for construction and operation of three new large (24.5 million gallons each) crude oil storage tanks, modification of two large (under construction) crude oil storage tanks, increased pipeline 61 tar sands derived crude oil carrying capacity, associated piping components, increasing pumping pressure at 3 stations and installing 9 new pump stations, cleaning emissions from existing tanks T35 – T40, and a new diesel emergency generator.

Enbridge Company’s permit application proposes tripling the volume of tar sands derived crude oil transported by Pipeline 61. This pipeline is currently carrying Canadian tar sands oil through Wisconsin from Superior, WI, then south to Delevan, WI. The pipeline then crosses over the Illinois state line and continues south where the tar sands are distributed to refineries.

DNR has already made its preliminary determination that Enbridge Company’s application meets state and federal air pollution control requirements, and that the permit should be approved. DNR’s analysis and draft permit is available for inspection at the Bureau of Air Management Headquarters, Seventh Floor, 101 South Webster Street, Madison, Wisconsin, 53703; (608) 266-2621; and at the Northern Region Air Program, Superior Area Office, 1701 N. 4th Street, Superior, WI 54880, tel. (715) 392-7989; and at the Superior Public Library 1530 Tower Ave., Superior, WI 54880-4880. Alternatively, the public may contact Don C. Faith, III at (608) 267-3135, or by e-mail at don.faithiii@wisconsin.gov. DNR’s public notice says the information is also available for downloading at: http://dnr.wi.gov/cias/am/amexternal/AM_PermitTrackingSearch.aspx.

The DNR held a public hearing on Monday, May 5, 2014 in Superior, Wisconsin. The purpose of the hearing was for the DNR to hear public testimony on Enbridge Company’s proposal. A dozen people testified against DNR issuing the permit at the hearing while four registered in favor of DNR’s granting of the permit.

The proposed Endbridge Co. expansion is planned in two phases: phase 1 will involve the modification of 3 existing pump stations to increase tar sands crude flow from 400,000 bpd (barrels per day) to 560,000 bpd; phase 2 will involve the construction of 9 new pumping stations in Wisconsin along the pipeline route and increase the tar sands crude flow to 1,200,000 bpd. That is an awful large amount of heavy crude oil to be flowing through Enbridge’s pipelines every single day.

Enbridge’s Pipeline 61 will be an avenue to export dirty tar sands oil from Alberta, Canada, outside of the United States, to overseas oil markets, where it is likely to be used for combustion into energy, with the primary byproducts of (1) carbon dioxide, which is a greenhouse gas that is being up to dangerous level in the atmosphere and oceans, as it remain in the atmosphere for over a century, adding to the warming of the atmosphere, in combination with the greenhouse gases emitted before and after it’s emission. This quantity of oil burning will greatly and negatively affect air quality around the surface because warming air is more conducive to carrying the pollutants and soot which emerge from all sources, causing disastrous air quality affects on human health all over when breathed.

The DNR claims that it has already made a determination under ch. NR 150, Wisconsin Administrative Code, that this type of proposal normally does not have the potential to cause significant adverse environmental or secondary effects; also DNR’s hearing notice states that “This is a preliminary determination and does not constitute a final approval from the Air Management Program or any other DNR sections which may also require a review of the project.

DNR decides to issue this permit to Enbridge Company, this will lead to more tar sands spills, water pollution, increased demand for tar sands oil, more climate change pollution, and more air pollution.

Warmer air holds more moisture, and thus more air pollution in the United States. DNR should deny the permit application for Enbridge Company’s Line 61 and the proposed massive oil storage facilities on that basis alone.

Line 61 crosses through Wisconsin from Superior to Flanagan, IL and will include new pumping stations (in Hawthorne, Ladysmith, Owen, Marshfield, Minong, Stone Lake, Adams, Portage, and Waterloo) and increased pumping pressure at existing stations (Sheldon, Vesper, and Delavan). This puts a number of our water bodies at risk, from Castle Rock Lake, the Rock River, Lake Koshkonong, the Flambeau River, and most importantly, Lake Superior and the Great Lakes, which provide drinking water for 42 million people. A spill could devastate these waterways, and the jobs and economy that depend on them.

Tar sands oil is more carbon intensive than traditional oil—greenhouse gas emissions of tar sands oil are about 17% greater than the average barrel of oil on a life-cycle basis. We are already seeing the effects of climate change in Wisconsin. The drought and heat wave in 2012, followed by relentless rain and flooding last year give us a glimpse of what climate change could cost Wisconsin in the future, from our farms to our forests to our cold-water fisheries. More tar sands oil is the last thing our climate needs.

The deadline for commenting to DNR on Enbridge’s permit application is May 18, 2014: Mail your comments to the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources, Bureau of Air Management, ATTN: Don C. Faith, III, 101 S. Webster Street, Box 7921, Madison, WI 53707-7921, or email them to the address listed above.

Tars sands oil means more spilled oil: in order to extract the oil, it is mixed with chemicals, this makes it more acidic and leads to more ruptures and spills. Tar sands pipelines in the Midwest spill 3.6 times more per mile than traditional pipelines.

Enbridge’s track record is terrible: Since 1999, Enbridge has had 800 spills, including the very severe, very significant spill in the Kalamazoo River. The pipeline spewed tar sands oil for over 17 hours, before Enbridge realized it was leaking. The environmental damage to the wetlands, Kalamazoo River, and Talmadge Creek will likely never fully remedied. The full extent of public health effects will possibly never be known, but 320 homes had to be evacuated.

Enbridge is responsible for a number of spills in Wisconsin as well: In January 2007, an Enbridge pipeline ruptured, pouring more than 29,000 gallons of crude oil onto a farm field in the town of Curtis in Clark County. A month later, another Enbridge pipeline rupture dumped 176,000 gallons of heavy crude oil in a Rusk County farm field. In January 2009, Enbridge Energy Partners paid the State of Wisconsin $1.1 million to settle claims under Wisconsin’s waterway and wetland protection and storm water control laws. In July 2012 a farm field in Grand Marsh, Wisconsin was covered by at least 1,200 barrels of oil after an Enbridge pipeline ruptured there. Enbridge had to purchase a nearby home that a local resident described as being “covered in oil.”

Tar Sands oil poses a greater threat to our water resources: unlike traditional oil, tar sands oil is dense and does not float, so the way to clean it out of a river is unknown. Four years later, the Kalamazoo spill is still not cleaned up and the Environmental Protection Agency ordered Enbridge dredge the river. Clean-up costs will exceed $1 Billion.

Technology cannot properly detect or prevent a spill: a Natural Resources Defense Council investigation found that leak detection systems missed 19 out of 20 spills and 4 out of 5 of the larger spills.

The climate cannot afford tar sands oil: Tar sands oil is the dirtiest and most carbon intensive form of oil. The extraction process is incredibly carbon intensive and requires destroying the Canadian boreal forest, one of the largest carbon sequestration sources in the world, capturing twice as much carbon as the tropical forests. As a result, greenhouse gas emissions of tar sands oil are about 17% greater than the average barrel of oil on a life-cycle basis.

Source: WisconsinSierraClub.org

Mayday! Mayday! Mayday!

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May 1, called May Day, historically was a fun-filled day for people to say goodbye to the long, cold winter and welcoming warmer weather, by gathering flowers, singing, and dancing.

May Day has also become know as also known as International Workers’ Day, Unions and union locals in the United States — especially in urban areas with strong support for organized labor — have maintained a connection with labor traditions through their own unofficial observances on May 1. Some of the largest examples of this occurred during the Great Depression of the 1930s, when hundreds of thousands of workers marched in May Day parades in New York’s Union Square.

International Workers’ Day is also the commemoration of the May 4, 1886 Haymarket affair in Chicago. The police were trying to disperse a public assembly during a general strike for the eight-hour workday when an unidentified person threw something at the police. The police responded by firing on the workers, killing four demonstrators. “Reliable witnesses testified that all the pistol flashes came from the center of the street, where the police were standing, and none from the crowd. Moreover, initial newspaper reports made no mention of firing by civilians. A telegraph pole at the scene was filled with bullet holes, all coming from the direction of the police On May 1, 2012, tens of thousands marched in the streets of New York and around the US to commemorate May Day as the worker’s holiday and to protest the dismal state of the economy, the growing divide between the rich and the poor and the status quo of economic inequality. Members of Occupy Wall Street and labor unions held protests together in a number of cities in the United States and Canada on May 1, 2012 to commemorate May Day.

This afternoon in Madison there is a May Day march and rally to the State Capitol for immigrant justice, worker’s rights, and a living wage for all, hosted by the Immigrant Worker’s Union. Marcher’s will be meeting at 3 pm at Brittingham Park of Monona Bay, Madison.

Tonight, the Industrial Workers of the World host a May Day celebration with live music, ols fashion labor singing, food, literature and solidarity from 6 – 10 pm at the Wilmar Center, 953 Jennifer Street.

“Mayday”, voiced three consecutive times, as done in the title, “Mayday! Mayday! Mayday!”, is a call for help used in maritime and aviation operations to broadcast that, unless we take major, significant, and TIMELY ALTERNATIVE ACTIONS (quickly), that reverse course – away from the3 status quo (business as usual), imminent doom for the planet and its inhabitants is inevitable.

Thus, a “Mayday! Mayday! Mayday!” call has collectively been sounded by the thousands of the United Nation’s Intergovernmental Panel of scientists who make up the IPCC and wrote and published the latest dire report on the status of our changing climate. What follows are some remarks they and others made following the report’s public release:

(Additions coming shortly.)

Earth’s future ability to sustain life will be directly incumbent are the success of us here today in reducing enough fossil fuel burning, fast enough, and in reversing the deforestation and paving of the earth with cement. We must contact our governmental officials, who we collectively chose to represent our interests, and demand they take immediate major actions to begin to combat not only global warming, but also income inequality, poverty and hunger and other condition of human injustice.

Energy efficiency is a key way to reduce the state’s carbon footprint and make customer energy bills more affordable. Innovative efficiency strategies, coupled with smart use of renewable resources, could position Wisconsin as a leader in climate and energy strategies for the 21st century.

See “Conserve, NOW” conservation solution which rewards those who burn less fossils fuels on an annual basis. Click on “About this blog” on page 1 for more information.