Archive | October 2014

NPR Guts Its Environment And Climate Reporting Team, Becomes ‘Part Of The Problem’


NPR has gutted its staff dedicated to covering environmental and climate issues. Given the nation’s and world’s renewed focus on the threat posed by unrestricted carbon pollution, this baffling move is already receiving widespread criticism from scientists and media watchers. It is “a sad commentary on the current state of our media,” as one top climatologist told me.

Katherine Bagley broke the story for InsideClimate News. She reports that earlier in 2014, NPR “had three full-time reporters and one editor dedicated” to cover environmental and climate issues within NPR’s science desk. Now, shockingly, “One remains — and he is covering it only part-time.”
NPR’s climate coverage has been fairly stagnant for years.

Climate communications expert Dr. Robert J. Brulle of Drexel said The Public Broadcasting Act of 1967 that led to the founding of NPR had as one of its goals that public broadcasting would serve as a “source of alternative telecommunications services” that would serve to “address national concerns.” This latest announcement illustrates how NPR has lost its way. The level of coverage of climate change by NPR has not served to increase public knowledge of climate change any more than any other commercial news outlet. Its coverage has returned to the levels seen around 2006. Reducing the environmental staff will further decrease its coverage of climate change. I would have thought NPR would take a proactive stance toward the coverage of climate change, given its charter to address issues of national concern. Sadly, it seems that instead of being part of the solution, NPR has now become part of the problem.
An InsideClimate News analysis of NPR pieces tagged “environment,” found that the number “has declined since January … dropping from the low 60s to mid-40s every month.”
Journalists and scientists quickly criticized NPR’s move.

Last year, climate coverage at the New York Times dropped following its closure of its own environmental desk. But the Times recently reversed course and expanded its team.
In an email to ClimateProgress, Bagley wrote “With the impacts of climate change becoming more salient, this seems like the wrong time for a news outlet to be reducing the resources or manpower it dedicates to covering this issue.” She hopes NPR ultimately ends up where the Times did: “It closed its desk, but after much criticism and data showing that its coverage declined, the paper made environment and climate a key priority again by assigning a number of new reporters to the beat.”

Michael Mann, director of the Penn State Earth System Science Center and one of the country’s top climatologists, told ClimateProgress, “This is a sad commentary on the current state of our media and, in particular, environmental reporting. Climate change is perhaps the greatest challenge we face as a civilization. Yet NPR apparently feels that it only deserves a fraction of one reporter.”

The move to shift reporters off the environment beat was driven by an interest to cover other fields more in depth, said Anne Gudenkauf, senior supervising editor of NPR’s science desk….
Gudenkauf also said she doesn’t “feel like [the environment] necessarily requires dedicated reporters” because so many other staffers cover the subject, along with their other beats.
Personally, I don’t know anyone in the media business who shares that view. Indeed, one of the reasons that Climate Progress greatly expanded its team of reporters dedicated to covering climate change last year is precisely because major MSM outlets like the Times were slashing coverage.
Yet, ironically, at the same time that the New York Times has figured out it made a mistake cutting dedicated climate reporters, NPR has made the exact same mistake.

From a report JOE ROMM, of Climate Progress, Oct.24, 2014.

Leaked Final Draft Of U.N. Climate Report Shows Dire Global Warming Predictions

earth-from-spaceEinstein-Quotes-1BY ARI PHILLIPS, POSTED ON OCTOBER 27, 2014

Delegates from more than 100 governments and many of the world’s top climate scientists are meeting in Copenhagen this week to finalize a report that will be used as a foundation for important upcoming climate summits. The leaked United Nations draft report, due to be published on Nov. 2nd, says climate change may have “serious, pervasive and irreversible” impacts on human society and nature.
Hopes are set on a new, post-Kyoto Protocol global climate agreement to be reached at the Paris summit at the end of 2015. There will a major climate meeting in Lima, Peru at the end of this year to help set the framework for the 2015 gathering.

“The report will be a guide for us,” Peruvian Environment Minister Manuel Pulgar-Vidal, told Reuters.
This final report is a synthesis of three comprehensive IPCC reports published over the course of the last year. Those reports focused on the physical science; impacts, adaptation and vulnerability; and mitigation. This flagship report received over 2,000 comments from government officials relating to changes to be made prior to publication.

According to a Reuters analysis, many governments want the draft to be written in a more clear and accessible manner with a focus on extreme weather events such as storms, heat waves, and floods. The U.S. wrote that the report needs to be useful for those without deep technical knowledge of climate issues.

“What about drought? Cyclones? Wildfires? Policymakers care deeply about extreme events,” the U.S. team wrote. “After all, in many ways it is how extreme events will change that will determine many of the (near-term, at least) impacts from climate change. As such, the authors should strongly consider saying more about the projected changes in extreme events.”

>U.S. commenters also wrote that the report should stress impacts on rich countries more, saying “there are very few references to the vulnerability of wealthier countries to climate change.”

The E.U. team wrote that “the key messages should contain more substance that can help guide policy makers rather than general overarching statements,” and that “the overall storyline … is sometimes not clear and still looks fragmented.”

While the report warns of the dire consequences of the continued rise of GHGs, it also says the worst impacts can still be avoided. It states that a combination of adaptation and substantial, sustained reductions in GHGs can limit climate change risks and reduce the costs and challenges of mitigation.
Over the past five years some 2,000 scientists worked on the fifth iteration of the U.N.’s Intergovernmental Panel On Climate Change’s Assessment Report. With leaders gathering to finalize the report this week, Rajendra Pachauri, chairman of the IPCC, urged world governments not to be overcome by hopelessness as they engage in negotiations.

“May I humbly suggest that policymakers avoid being overcome by the seeming hopelessness of addressing climate change,” he said. “Tremendous strides are being made in alternative sources of clean energy. There is much we can do to use energy more efficiently. Reducing and ultimately eliminating deforestation provides additional avenues for action.”

In one hopeful indication, last week leaders of the European Union agreed to cut emissions by 40 percent below 1990 levels by 2030. European leaders hope this will build momentum for when the bloc hosts the critical Paris climate summit next year, and that it will encourage other major emitters yet to make pledges — such as the U.S. and China — to rise to the occasion. Countries have until early next year to announce the targets they intend to negotiate with at the Paris summit.

While U.S. Congress Fiddles EU Agrees To Cut Greenhouse Gas Emissions

Earth at night Europe

By Barbara Lewis and Alastair Macdonald

BRUSSELS, Oct 24 (Reuters) – European Union leaders struck a deal on a new target to cut carbon emissions out to 2030, calling it a new global standard but leaving critics warning that compromises had undermined the fight against climate change.

Talks in Brussels stretched into the small hours of Friday as Poland battled to spare its coal industry and other states tweaked the guideline text on global warming to protect varied economic interests, from nuclear plants and cross-border power lines to farmers whose livestock belch out polluting methane.

In the end, an overall target was agreed for the 28-nation bloc to cut its emissions of carbon in 2030 by at least 40 percent from levels in the benchmark year of 1990. An existing goal of a 20-percent cut by 2020 has already been nearly met.

EU leaders called the 40-percent target an ambitious signal to the likes of the United States and China to follow suit at a U.N. climate summit France is hosting in December next year.

“Europe is setting an example,” French President Francois Hollande said, acknowledging that it had been a hard-won compromise but calling the final deal “very ambitious.”

“Ultimately, this is about survival,” said summit chair Herman Van Rompuy, the president of the European Council.

But environmentalists had already complained that the deal could still leave the EU struggling to make the at least 80-percent cut by 2050 that its own experts say is needed to limit the rise in global average temperatures to two degrees Celsius.

Natalia Alonso of Oxfam welcomed the 40-percent goal but said: “(It) falls far too short of what the EU needs to do to pull its weight in the fight against climate change. Insufficient action like this from the world’s richest countries places yet more burden on the poorest people most affected by climate change, but least responsible for causing this crisis.”


The European Union accounts for about a tenth of world greenhouse gas emissions and has generally done more than other major industrial powers to curb the gases blamed for global warming.

But Green campaigners said Friday’s deal signaled the EU was becoming less ambitious.

Aside from the headline emissions goals, they were disappointed by a softening in the final agreement of targets for increasing the use of solar, wind and other renewable energy sources and for improving efficiency through measures such as insulation and cleaner engines.

Diplomats said bargaining by Poland’s new prime minister Eva Kopacz, who faces an election next year, secured a complex set of financial incentives. They include free allowances in the EU system for trading carbon emissions to soften the impact of the target on Polish coal miners and the coal-fired power stations on which its 38 million people depend.

Concerns in Britain and some smaller states about additional EU regulation that might, for example, crimp a new expansion of emissions-free but controversial nuclear power, saw targets for increased use of renewable energy and for energy efficiency softened.

Van Rompuy said the two targets would be for at least 27 percent. They would also only apply across the bloc as a whole, unlike the broad 40-percent target that binds each state individually.

Renewable energy sources produce about 14 percent of the EU’s energy at present.

Brook Riley of Friends of the Earth said: “This deal does nothing to end Europe’s dependency on fossil fuels or to speed up our transition to a clean energy future. It’s a deal that puts dirty industry interests ahead of citizens and the planet.”

Some industrialists have complained that EU climate regulations risk discouraging business and investment in the bloc at a time when its faltering economy can ill afford to lose it. But others, echoed by EU officials on Friday, see changes in energy use as an opportunity to develop new industries.

Portugal and Spain succeeded in getting a harder target for the level of cross-border connections, something they had been pushing France to accept so that they could export more of their spare energy across France and to the rest of the continent.

In the middle of a confrontation with Russia over Moscow’s role in the Ukraine conflict, the EU also took the opportunity to set out strategic objectives for “energy security” – code for reducing its heavy reliance on Russian natural gas. (Additional reporting by Julia Fioretti and Jan Strupczewski; Writing by Alastair Macdonald)

Our Planet’s Primal Scream — Is Anyone Listening?

Recent headlines have sounded the alarm on the mounting impacts of climate change. Over the past few months, we have seen everything from the hottest summer on record, to historic droughts and extreme wildfires ravaging communities in California, to vanishing wildlife habitat in Alaska, to toxic algae blooming out of control and contaminating drinking water supplies in America’s heartland.

How much more do we need to know about the devastating effects of climate change before Congress takes action?

In California, the first six months of 2014 were the hottest on record, and 82 percent of the state is currently experiencing extreme drought. And the situation is expected to get worse — recently scientists predicted that 2014 will end as the hottest year ever recorded. Experts also tell us that climate change has tripled the probability that the drought-causing weather conditions will continue.

This historic drought is contributing to more frequent and intense wildfires. In the past, California’s wildfire season lasted about three months out of the year, but now it is virtually year-round, and that is straining our state’s budget.

Disturbing pictures in Alaska showed 35,000 walruses — almost all females and calves — stranded on a beach. They should have been able to use the Arctic sea ice to dive for food, but the ice is gone. Temperatures in Alaska’s North Pacific Ocean are the warmest ever recorded, and the amount of Arctic sea ice shrank to one of its lowest levels on record. According to new peer-reviewed findings, the warming waters and melting ice have also led to sea levels rising at rates unprecedented over the last 6,000 years.

In August, toxins were found in Toledo’s drinking water supply after an algae bloom formed over an intake pipe in Lake Erie. An emergency water ban was imposed to protect 500,000 Ohioans from the dangerous toxins, which can cause vomiting, diarrhea, and harm to the liver. Scientists have warned us for years that poisonous algae blooms are exacerbated by climate change.

The examples in California, Alaska, and Ohio are major wake-up calls about the damage that has already been done to our planet.

However, instead of confronting this crisis, congressional Republicans are trying to gut our clean air protections that help tackle dangerous climate change. Over the past four years, the Republican House has voted well over a 100 times to repeal the health-based standards that are the heart of the Clean Air Act, including trying to roll back the president’s authority to limit carbon pollution.

President Obama has taken important steps to address climate change, such as proposing standards to control dangerous carbon pollution from power plants. Cutting carbon pollution will also reduce many types of other air pollutants that threaten human health with respiratory illnesses like asthma. We all benefit from having clean air to breathe — it literally saves lives.

We also know that safeguarding public health, protecting the environment, and growing the economy work together. Since the passage of the Clean Air Act four decades ago, air pollution emissions have dropped 72 percent while our economy has grown substantially. During the same period, the U.S. gross domestic product grew 219 percent and total private sector jobs increased by 101 percent.

This environmental success story is now threatened by climate change deniers, because failing to address climate change now will only increase the harmful impacts and financial burden on all Americans. When our water supplies are contaminated, who pays to clean it up? When wildfires grow out of control, who pays to put them out? When record temperatures put lives at risk, who pays for community cooling centers? The American taxpayers foot the bill.

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change has a report coming out early next month that is expected to once again tell us that we have a very short window to act on climate change, and scientific evidence is overwhelming that we must reduce dangerous carbon pollution before it leads to irreversible impacts for human health, food and water supplies, and vital infrastructure.

What we need is a price on carbon pollution to reflect its true costs on society. Last year, Senator Bernie Sanders and I introduced the Climate Protection Act. Our bill would establish a fee on each ton of carbon pollution emitted from the petroleum, coal, and natural gas that we produce and import. Under our bill, 60 percent of the revenue would be returned directly to taxpayers, and the remaining portion would be reinvested in promoting renewable energy, enhancing job growth in a clean energy economy, and increasing the resilience in the nation’s infrastructure.

The American people want Congress to address climate change, as poll after poll has shown. Just last month in New York, 400,000 people demonstrated their support for action on dangerous climate change.

Congress must respond to this citizen call for action. I ask colleagues on both sides of the aisle to join me in this fight. We owe it to future generations to take meaningful steps to address dangerous climate change now. There is no more time to waste.

by Sen. Barbara Boxer

Wisconsinites Should Be “Angry” about the Actions and In-actions of their Governor!

Republican Gov. Scott Walker kicked up a hornets nest in Madison last Thursday, October 23, 2014, when he told a gathering of news reporters at the morning briefing that people living in Madison are driven by anger. “There are many people in Madison who are angry and they’re going to vote no (against Walker) [no] matter what, Walker said in his morning briefing.

What does he expect?

Shortly after he took office, Governor Walker surprised the citizens of Wisconsin with his now infamous “Act 10”, also known as the Wisconsin Budget Repair bill, ridding public unions of their rights to collective bargaining and deeply reducing the take home pay of all public employees, including all the public school teachers in the state. The bill was referred to the Joint Committee on Finance who then held a public hearing the same day.

When it became clear the passage of the bill was inevitable, all 14 Senate Democrats left the state to prevent Republicans from passing the measure in the Senate.

Twenty senators had to be present to hold a vote on the bill and Republicans had just 19 seats. Walker immediately advocated for taking that requirement out of the bill, so Republicans could pass it without the Democrats being present, according to an online report by the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel and became law in Wisconsin on June 29, 2011.

“It’s had a devastating effect on our union,”, said Wisconsin Union of State Employees Marty Beil in a report by the New York Times . It brought tens of thousands of protesters out to the Wisconsin State Capitol in Madison in frigid February weather in protest.

Wisconsin had been the first state in the country to grant public unions the right to negotiate contracts with their employers, after former Governor Gaylord Nelson established the rights for all labor unions, public and private, to bargain collectively.

Nelson subsequently became a U.S. Senator, where he helped passed numerous environmental legislation, and where he famously founded “Earth Day”, a day celebrated in many public schools and communities around the world with the purpose of learning about the importance of keeping a healthy environment every April 22nd. According to Nelson: “Some people who talk about the environment talk about it as though it involved only a question of clean air and clean water. The environment involves the whole broad spectrum of man’s relationship to all other living creatures, including other human beings. It involves the environment in its broadest and deepest sense. It involves the environment of the ghetto which is the worst environment, where the worst pollution, the worst noise, the worst housing, the worst situation in this country — that has to be a critical part of our concern and consideration in talking and cleaning up the environment.”

The aftermath of schools having to abide by Governor Walker’s Act 10 has deeply affected public education throughout Wisconsin. As the 2014-15 school year unfolds, Wisconsin has seen class sizes in its public schools grow faster than the national average, a rise in the number of students living in poverty, coupled with a reduction in state support for public education.

Public schools have long been an engine of our state’s economic growth, according to The Wisconsin Budget Project, an initiative of the Wisconsin Council on Children and Families and the State Priorities Partnership, formed in 1999, who’s mission is to engage in nonpartisan and independent analysis and provide education on state budget and tax issues, particularly those relating to low- and moderate-income families.

The Partnership is coordinated by the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities. According to The Wisconsin Budget Project, “Wisconsin has depended on a well-educated workforce, shaped by excellent public schools, to lay the foundation for our prosperity. To ensure that Wisconsin is competitive in the future, our schools must have the resources to offer students a high-quality education. Only then can we create a future workforce that is well-qualified and globally competitive”.

However, three and 1/2 years following Act 10’s passage into law, Wisconsin classrooms have fewer teachers, resulting in more crowded classrooms and less individualized attention for students. Over the last seven years, the number of teachers in Wisconsin public schools has fallen significantly. In the 2011-2012 year alone, there was a 7.1% in the number of full-time equivalents (FTEs) teachers in Wisconsin public schools to 56,200 FTE teachers, down from 60,500 FTE public school teachers in the 2004-05 school year, even as student enrollment has increased slightly.

The decline in the number of teachers in Wisconsin has resulted in higher student-to-teacher ratios in Wisconsin. Having fewer students for each teacher helps students learn better, but in Wisconsin the trend is going in the opposite direction. In 2004-05, Wisconsin had 14.3 students per teacher; that number had risen to 15.5 students by 2011-12.

There has been a rising tide of children living in poverty in Wisconsin and attending public schools. The number of Wisconsin children who are from low-income families has climbed for ten straight years, according to Wisconsin’s Department of Public Instruction.

According to the Wisconsin Budget Project, the rising number of low-income students presents challenges for Wisconsin schools. Children from low-income families lag their peers in educational achievement. They also are less likely to graduate from high school and become well-educated, healthy members of Wisconsin’s skilled workforce.

In the 2013-14 school year, 43% of Wisconsin children in public schools — or 359,000 children — were eligible for free or reduced-price school lunches, A decade earlier, only 30% of students qualified for free or reduced lunches.

In each of Wisconsin’s five largest school districts — Milwaukee, Madison, Kenosha, Green Bay, and Racine — more than half the students are from low-income families and qualified for assistance for school meals. More than 8 out of 10 students in Milwaukee Public Schools were from low-income families in the 2013-14 school year. Put another way, about 69,000 children in Milwaukee Public Schools received assistance to help pay for school lunches.

Wisconsin’s public education cuts under Scott Walker are among the deepest in the country. When measured as dollars lost per student, Wisconsin’s cuts to public education over this period are second only to Alabama. Wisconsin provided $1,038 per student less in state support for public schools in 2014 than in 2008.

Changes to the state retirement system and collective bargaining rules made in 2011 forced school districts to cut compensation for teachers and other school employees and scale back academic programs. Some school districts have been forced to eliminate courses in core subject areas.

At the same time lawmakers were cutting state support for schools, they passed tax cuts that add up to $1.9 billion over four years. The tax cuts didn’t do much to lower tax bills for Wisconsin’s lowest-wage earners, but they did drain revenue that could be used for education or other priorities.

Cuts in state aid and uncertainties about future funding have caused turmoil in Wisconsin schools.

Yet while Walker’s actions have caused increased hardships on Wisconsin’s public employees, teachers and its student population, particularly for poor minority families, additional adverse impact is resulting from Governor Walker’s lack of positive environmental action.

In a recent article, Bill Lueders quotes Matt Neumann, president of the trade group Wisconsin Solar Energy Industries Association, as saying he needs only one word to describe Wisconsin’s recent record on renewable energy. He calls it “rotten.”

Neumann is equally concise in ascribing blame: “The big change happened in 2010, when the Republicans took control of the governorship and Legislature.”

Such criticism may have greater weight given that Neumann is a self-described conservative who a few years back launched SunVest, a Pewaukee-based solar installation company, with his father, Mark.

Matt Neumann says the economics of solar power have improved dramatically in recent years, to where government subsidies are no longer needed. “But we still need policies that support the ability to install solar,” he says, adding that the state is missing opportunities to grow this sector of its economy.

Renew Wisconsin, a nonprofit advocacy group, has tallied that the number of new solar electric installations in Wisconsin fell from 339 in 2010 to 136 in 2012, then rose slightly to 194 in 2013. Meanwhile, new solar installations nationally grew by leaps and bounds. More than 150,000 were added last year, about three times as many as in 2010.

For wind power, Renew Wisconsin reports that the number of commercial turbines placed in service plunged from 215 in 2008 to just 10 in 2012. Wind power in Wisconsin has since “flatlined,” according to Michael Vickerman, the group’s program and policy director. No new turbines were added in 2013 and 2014, and none are planned by state utilities, he says.

“We’re definitely falling behind,” says Gary Radloff, a researcher with the Wisconsin Energy Institute at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. “It’s pretty remarkable and measurable.” Wisconsin had been seeing growth in this area before “this massive drop-off in the last few years.”

A recent poll by a bipartisan research team found that more than 80% of Wisconsin voters support raising the state’s use of various forms of renewable energy, including solar, wind and biomass.

Mary Burke, the Democratic candidate for governor, has blasted Walker for his record on renewable energy and pledged to boost state investment in wind power, biofuels and digester technologies that turn waste to watts.

Walker’s true colors of being anti-environmental were shown when it was reported he received $700,000 from a mining firm who was subsequently allowed to rewrite Wisconsin’s once strong metallic mining law to allow it to have the largest open pit mine in North America, which will wipe out an area of significant natural beauty and high natural habitat quality which is a local tribe finds irreplaceable.

Further evidence of the low priority the Walker administration has given to environmental values is its unwillingness to create rules to limit small particle pollution from power plants, forcing the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to write such rules for Wisconsin. Wisconsin, the home of the late Gaylord Nelson, was once said to be a strong leader for other states to follow in protecting our environment. That can no longer be said now because of the blatant disregard for the environment the last three and one-half years by Governor Scott Walker. It’s no wonder Madison residents and undoubtedly many other residents of communities and rural areas throughout Wisconsin appear angry to Governor Walker. They’re furious – and they are saving their stingers for the voting booth on November 4th.

Source: Wisconsin Center for Investigative Journalism

Is Human Activity Really to Blame for Climate Change? How Did Venus Get So Hot?


A recent debate between candidates for Congress in the Wisconsin’s 1st District — U.S. Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Janesville, and Democratic challenger Rob Zerban — included questions about the role of human beings in producing discernible changes in the climate over the last 150 years.

Unfortunately, this question, which is a matter of evidence, analysis and conclusion as all scientific questions are, has become a source of partisan political divide.

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), a scientific body created by the United Nations to inform the UN regarding “scientific, technical and socio-economic information relevant to understanding the scientific basis of risk of human-induced climate change,” has issued five reports on this question since 1990.

These reports are a synthesis of many hundreds of peer-reviewed scientific studies on the issue.

With each successive report — they have been issued in 1995, 2001, 2007 and 2014 — the IPCC has increased the certainty of its conclusions.

The language in these reports has changed from “the balance of evidence suggests a discernible human influence on global climate” (1995) to “most of the observed warming is likely (a greater than 66 percent chance) due to human activities” (2001) to warming “over the last 50 years is very likely (a greater than 90 percent chance) due to human activities” to “It is extremely likely (a 95-100 percent chance) that human influence was the dominant cause of global warming between 1951-2010.”

This makes two things quite clear.

First, that scientists are a skeptical bunch and will move toward increased certainty only as evidence accumulates in favor of that conclusion.

Second, that human-induced global warming is a reality with which we must reckon.

During the debate, when asked if humans have a role in global warming, Ryan answered, “I don’t know the answer to that question. I don’t think science does either.”

He may well be correct in his first response, but he is certainly wrong in his second.

Article by Steve Ackerman and Jonathan Martin who are professors in the University of Wisconsin’s Department of Atmospheric and Oceanic Sciences in Madison, Wisconsin.

The above article was published in the Wisconsin State Journal print edition on October 20, 2014.

The IPCC also says “climate change is not a far-off problem. It is happening now and is having very real consequences on people’s lives. Climate change is disrupting national economies, costing us dearly today and even more tomorrow”, the IPCC states.

Astrobiologist David Grinspoon believes that scientists should look at our neighboring planets to help understand the perils of global warming. “It seems that both Mars and Venus started out much more like Earth and then changed. They both hold priceless climate information for Earth.”

The atmosphere of Venus is much thicker than Earth’s. Nevertheless, current climate models can reproduce its present temperature structure well. Now planetary scientists want to turn the clock back to understand why and how Venus changed from its former Earth-like conditions into the inferno of today.Climate scientists believe that the planet experienced a runaway greenhouse effect as the Sun gradually heated up. Astronomers believe that the young Sun was dimmer than the present-day Sun by 30 percent. Over the last 4 thousand million years, it has gradually brightened. During this increase, Venus’s surface water evaporated and entered the atmosphere.

“Water vapor is a powerful greenhouse gas and it caused the planet to heat-up even more. This is turn caused more water to evaporate and led to a powerful positive feedback response known as the runaway greenhouse effect,” says Grinspoon.

We have to make sure nothing like a runaway greenhouse effect doesn’t get started on Earth. Hopefully, it has not already started.

Public and Future Citizens Biggest Losers in WBA Second and Final Gubernatorial Debate


Democrat Mary Burke argued during a debate last Friday night (Oct. 17) in Wisconsin’s hotly contested governor’s race that Republican incumbent Scott Walker mismanaged Wisconsin’s finances, leading to a projected $1.8 billion budget shortfall, and enacted tax cuts that benefited the wealthy over the middle class (which he did).

Which candidate would be better for Wisconsin’s economy is a central part of the race that’s attracted national attention both because it’s close and because Walker is widely considered to be in the mix for a 2016 presidential run should he win re-election, according to the Associated Press.

Unfortunately, as was the case in the first Wisconsin Broadcasters Association (WBA) televised debate, neither Walker nor Burke were even asked about the growing catastrophe of human-caused global warming let alone the two largest sector contributors of greenhouse gases from the U.S. and most other developed countries: energy production and transportation. The people most negatively impacted by global warming and the havoc it’s already wreaking on the Earth are the young, those yet to be borne, and billions of people living without air conditioning and already living in poverty, many seeing their water and food supplies either drying up or being contaminated by flood waters.

But since the WBA interviewers did not see fit to test the candidates for Wisconsin’s next governor on what they have in mind as to what the state of Wisconsin should be doing to reduce Wisconsin’s contributions to the growing world catastrophe of global warming and how Wisconsin’s people might best plan for the inevitable changes, viewers were left wondering if either of the candidates is even thinking about the subject, let alone what Secretary of State John Kerry said about the seriousness and urgency of addressing climate change: [climate change] “should be addressed with as much “immediacy” as confronting the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS), and the Ebola outbreak”.

Earth a Lucky Fluke?


Is the Earth one of many habitable planets in the universe, or are human beings alone, the product of a lucky fluke? Author of “Lucky Planet: Why Earth is Exceptional–and What That Means for Life in the Universe”, David Waltham says it’s more likely the latter, thanks to our planet’s unusually stable climate and early development of life.

But whether Earth’s climate can still said to be “stable” is now, unfortunately, open to question. We humans have have relied far too extensively on fossil fuel burning – especially coal, oil (gasoline, diesel fuel, jet fuel, propane, fuel oil) and natural gas (methane), which all emit greenhouse gases to the atmosphere upon combustion, since the onset of the Industrial Revolution.  What Earth needs now is another kind of revolution, a peaceful revolution, but where humans use their own physical power and the energy of the Sun and the wind and rid themselves from the over-dependence on burning fossil fuels.  Read about a plan to do just that right here and then sign the petition to our elected governmental officials demanding they undertake the necessary changes to make this happen before its too late! Thank you.

Another Global Warming Trend: Tornadoes in Swarms


October 16, 2014
Tornado Swarms Increasing In U.S.: NOAA Study Tracks Deadly Storms

tornado-swarms1-e1413513492877-665x385“>Read more.

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Tornadoes in the United States are increasingly coming in swarms rather than as isolated twisters, according to a study by U.S. government meteorologists published on Thursday that illustrates another trend toward extreme weather emerging in recent years.

According to a study published by government meteorologists in the journal Science on Thursday, tornadoes are increasingly coming in swarms, meaning on the days a tornado hits, it is far more likely that several more — possibly dozens — will occur that same day.

Researchers looked at tornado activity over the past 60 years and found that although the number of the deadly storms occurring each year had remained relatively steady, since the mid 1990s they have been more likely to come in swarms over fewer days per year rather than as isolated tornadoes spread throughout the season.

On the list of the 10 single days with the most tornadoes since 1954, eight have occurred since 1999, including five since 2011. That year alone had days with 115, 73, 53 and 52 twisters.

The meteorologist who led the study, Harold Brooks of the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s National Severe Storms Laboratory in Norman, Oklahoma, said emergency management agencies and insurers should be prepared to deal more often with days with lots of tornado damage.

The study analyzed the official U.S. tornado database for the six-decade period ending last year, excluding twisters below Category F1, with wind speeds of 73-112 mph (117-180 kph), on the Enhanced Fujita Tornado Intensity Scale.

Some experts have blamed weather intensity seen in recent years on global climate change they attribute to human activities. This study did not, however, offer a conclusion as to a cause.

“Knowing that the climate now has changed from that of the 1970s makes for a circumstantial argument in favor of a changing climate playing at least some role in the tornado changes,” said meteorologist Patrick Marsh of NOAA’s Storm Prediction Center.

“There are indications that heavy rainfall events are occurring with greater frequency globally, and given a warmer climate, this makes sense,” added Storm Prediction Center meteorologist Greg Carbin.

But “any trend in tornado events is much more difficult to discern,” Carbin added.

The average number of days annually with at least 20 tornadoes has more than doubled since the 1970s to upwards of five days per year in the past decade. For days with at least 30 tornadoes, there has been an average of three per year in the past decade, compared to 0.6 days per year in the 1970s.

Records for both the most and fewest tornadoes over a 12-month period have come in the past five years, with 1,050 from June 2010 to May 2011 and 236 tornadoes from May 2012 to April 2013. May is the month with the most tornado activity, followed by June and April.

Tornadoes, rapidly spinning columns of air usually spawned by rotating thunderstorms, can be among the most violent weather events. They have been reported on every continent except Antarctica but most often hit a U.S. region covering the Great Plains and parts of the Midwest and South.

Tornadoes can cause extensive loss of life and property damage like the May 2011 twister in Joplin, Missouri, that killed about 160 people and wrecked thousands of homes.

(Reporting by Will Dunham, editing by G Crosse)

Earth’s About to Lose What Little Chance It Had – Unless We Act Now!

Who’s Gonna Stand Up
Neil Young’s Who’s Gonna Stand Up (and Save the Earth)
Protect the wild, tomorrow’s child
Protect the land from the greed of man
Take down the dams, stand up to oil
Protect the plants, and renew the soil

Who’s gonna stand up and save the earth?
Who’s gonna say that she’s had enough?
Who’s gonna take on the big machine?
Who’s gonna stand up and save the earth?
This all starts with you and me

Damn the dams, save the rivers
Starve the takers and feed the givers
Build a dream, save the world
We’re the people know as earth

Who’s gonna stand up and save the earth?
Who’s gonna say that she’s had enough?
Who’s gonna take on the big machine?
Who’s gonna stand up and save the earth?
This all starts with you and me

Ban fossil fuel, draw the line
Before we build, one more pipeline
Ban fracking now, save the waters
And build a life, for our sons and daughters

Who’s gonna stand up and save the earth?
Who’s gonna say that she’s had enough?
Who’s gonna take on the big machine?
Who’s gonna stand up and save the earth?
This all starts with you and me

Who’s gonna stand up
Who’s gonna stand up
Who’s gonna stand up
Who’s gonna stand up
Who’s gonna stand up

Who’s Gonna Stand Up (and Save the Earth)?
(full orchestra & choir version)
Start here. Sign “Conserve NOW Petition to President Obama, U.S. Congress, Wisconsin Governor Walker and Wisconsin Legislature to Enact and Fund Climate Change Legislation” (September 16th post on this blog) or;

I’ve also started the petition “U.S. Congress: Enact and Fund Legislation to Pay Families and Individuals who Use Less Fossil Fuel Energy Annually on Changeorg

Will you take 30 seconds to sign it right now? Here’s the link:

Here’s why it’s important:

Using money that now goes to subsidize the fossil fuel industries (coal, oil, natural gas), instead offer that money to those who limit their driving, flying and household use of fossil fuel devived energy. This would helpslow global warming and sea level rises and would negate the need for raising the minimum wage and foodstamps.

You can sign my petition by clicking here.


Answer “No” to Transportation Amendment on November 4th Ballot


Wisconsin law presently requires that specific revenue streams, such as gasoline and diesel fuel taxes and license fees collected from motor vehicle owners, be deposited into the transportation fund; however, the Wisconsin Supreme Court has recognized that the Wisconsin Legislature may, at times, have greater needs other than transportation, and it is therefore authorized to transfer certain amounts from the Transportation Fund to non-transportation state needs, such as education, health care, and shared revenue.

However, the Wisconsin Department of Transportation and the highway building industry – which includes such contracting entities as the Wisconsin road and bridge builders (the Transportation Builders Association), sand and gravel suppliers, cement and asphalt production companies, trucking firms, and other businesses financially tied to transportation in Wisconsin, have been very vocal in their criticisms of the previous administration’s use of some transportation generated money for purposes not financially benefiting Wisconsin’s transportation infrastructure.

So a Transportation Amendment referendum question was approved for placement on the November 4th ballot which, if the majority of Wisconsin voters answer “yes” (to Question 1 on the ballot), would so amend Wisconsin’s Constitution to mandate that all money generated by transportation taxes in Wisconsin after December 31, 2010 be deposited into the state’s Transportation Fund, and furthermore that no such money be lapsed, further transferred, or used for any program that is not directly administered by the department of transportation, in furtherance of the department’s responsibility for the planning, promotion, and protection of all transportation systems in the state. In short, all transportation collected money could only be used for transportation purposes if the majority of people voting on November 4th answer “yes” to Referendum Question #1.

If the majority of Wisconsin voters on November 4th answer “no” to amending Wisconsin’s Constitution regarding the Transportation Amendment, tax money from transportation in Wisconsin would still be deposited in the Transportation Fund and used for transportation; however, certain amounts approved by the Legislature for use in other state programs or the state budget other than for transportation projects would be permissible. The Wisconsin Constitution would not therefore be amended to provide for the exclusive use of motor vehicle fuel taxes and annual vehicle registration fees by the Wisconsin Department of Transportation for road and bridge expansion, reconstruction, and rehabilitation programs.

Wisconsin Senator Fred Risser recommends voters answer “no” to the Transportation Fund Constitutional Amendment, saying “it serves no useful purpose to submit to the highway lobby and guarantee them a constitutionally protected fund that can never be touched even in the case of economic crisis or statewide emergency”.

Wisconsin’s highway and bridge system and its use, and other state and federal highway systems and their use, have already exceeded the level of environmental and fiscal sustainability. In addition to the billions of dollars of state and federal money that has been collected and awarded to various highway and bridge contractor from Transportation Funds, there have been very real damages inflicted on Wisconsin’s and other state’s natural landscapes, wildlife and wildlife habitat, the climate and the human population. Despite many of these costs being significantly high, they are seldom quantified and simply go unpaid. Most (loss of wildlife habitat, climate change, small particle pollution) are growing more serious over time.

The public health impacts from 60 billion motor vehicle miles being driven annually in the state are growing evermore significant and serious (from climate change, loss of green space, farmland loss, small particle air pollution). Yet we have seen no actions being undertaken or even discussed so far by the Governor Scott Walker administration, the Wisconsin Legislature, or candidate for governor Mary Burke. Action is needed to encourage less fossil fuel burning vehicular travel in the state, to mitigate for many impacts that have already occurred or are still occurring, and to prepare for a climate that will be rapidly changing.

Despite seeing motor vehicle driving in Wisconsin finally leveling off, after decades of growth, the state and federal governments are planning to continue pouring vast sums of money into the construction of new highways and the expansion of old ones. Wisconsin’s governor is leading the way, with Wisconsin the politically powerful road and bridge building industry’s support.

Today’s Wisconsin State Journal newspaper states that Governor Scott Walker, in meeting with the State Journal’s editorial board Monday, said that he is considering replacing the state’s current gasoline tax with a sales tax on gas and alternative vehicle fuel sources “to stabilize long-term transportation funding in the state”. The state currently taxes gasoline, blended gasoline, and diesel fuel for motor vehicle fuel at a flat rate of 31 cents per gallon. The present gasoline tax generates about $1 billion in revenue for the Transportation Fund. The tax on is levied on gasoline suppliers but in turn gets build into the pump price. (The state also taxes liquefied propane gas, compressed natural gas and liquefied natural gas but not electricity, although The Journal reports Walker saying “that’s something that needs to be considered”.

Neither Walker nor Democratic challenger for governor Mary Burke have identified any specific plans for addressing the state’s projected $680 million shortfall in the Transportation Fund in the next biennial budget, according to the Wisconsin State Journal report written by Mathew DeFour and Mary Spicuzza and published October 14, 2014. The state will be short $15.3 billion in the Transportation Budget over the next decade according to a state transportation commission reported last year, despite there being fewer annual vehicle miles predicted to be traveled on the state highways in the coming years.

As alluded to previously (above), there is serious and significant concern regarding the continued burning of fossil fuels and the emission of greenhouse gases (GHGs) from motor vehicles travelly 60 billion miles, or 600 billion miles since 2004. The reason is that these gases, in particular carbon dioxide, have already accumulated to record high levels in the atmosphere, and the added accumulation of them in the atmosphere is growing ever more dangerous. Presently, the concentration of carbon dioxide (CO2) has reached record of over 400 parts per millions in the atmosphere, which is 42% above the CO2 concentration level present in the atmosphere before the Industrial Age. We are now witnessing rising sea levels from thermal expansion of water and ice melt over lands on an unprecedented scale.

Roughly 20 pounds of carbon dioxide is emitted to the atmosphere for each gallon of gasoline burned in a motor vehicle. Even if we assume that all vehicles driven in the state achieved 2013’s record high efficiency of 24.1 miles per gallon, this amounts to roughly 2.5 billion gallons of gasoline being burned on Wisconsin’s highways each year, which translates into 50 billion pounds (25 million tons) of carbon dioxide being emitted from tailpipes each year, or 250 tons over the last decade. Since carbon dioxide has a lifetime exceeding 100 years in the atmosphere, much of this CO2 will still be in the atmosphere by the end of this century, along with CO2 and other greenhouse gases accumulations.

Not only should the state be working harder and faster on reducing it’s GHG emissions – it should not be prohibited from using transportation generated money for this purpose. In fact, there should be a moratorium on adding more capacity (lane) for additional use of motor vehicles on the state’s highway system. This would save the state $3 billion in taxpayer money that is slated for highway expansion now, including work of the I-94 south of Madison project and the addition of two more lanes of Beltline highway in the vicinity of the Verona Road/Beltline interchange in Madison.

As discussed in a previous post on this blog, high motor vehicle traffic areas also generate dangerous levels of small and ultra small particle pollution. It has been reported in numerous that people who live very close to heavy traffic and get exposed to high levels of ultra fine particle pollution have more health problems, including heart and vascular problems. Transportation Funds should be used to minimize and mitigate for these transportation related health costs.

Verona Road/Beltline Expansion: despite the majority of people speaking at a meeting held by DOT in 2003  saying they were opposed to more motor vehicle traffic in the areas of West Madison near the proposed project, DOT proceeded with it plan for the project anyway, as expected.